The jobs market in Saudi Arabia will continue its recovery in 2022, driven by the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan and Covid-19 vaccination programme that has eased restrictions for tourism, jobseekers and businesses, according to recruitment specialist Cooper Fitch.
Salaries are also expected to rise by an average of 4 per cent this year, while a majority of employers in the kingdom are planning to reward employees with bonuses, Cooper Fitch says in its 2022 Saudi Arabia salary guide.
“The recruitment market [in Saudi Arabia] for 2022 shows all the signs of an unprecedented year of growth. It will bring considerable pressure on the private sector to retain talent along with acquiring new talent as the drive for [Vision] 2030 continues,” it says.
“We estimate that salaries will increase in 2022 by 4 per cent. We feel this is very conservative given the high demand for talent and the overall recruitment outlook for 2022.”
Over the past four years, Saudi Arabia has created 555,000 new jobs as part of its plan to develop $1 trillion worth of new projects to meet its Vision 2030 plan of diversifying the economy away from oil, according to the General Authority for Statistics.
Business activity in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector economy continued to expand in December despite a slowdown in growth as concerns about the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant softened demand.
Saudi Arabia’s IHS Market Purchasing Managers’ Index, a gauge designed to give a snapshot of operating conditions in the non-oil private sector economy, slipped to 53.9 in December from 56.9 in November in the Arab world’s largest economy.
However, hiring activity in the kingdom has picked up and is expected to “boom” this year, according to Zahra Clark, the head of Mena for Dubai-based Tiger Recruitment.
“Salaries are also on the rise. One market leader has raised its salaries, which is driving up compensation across the board by as much as 20 per cent as Saudi companies vie for talent,” Ms Clark says.
Meanwhile, the fastest-growing jobs in Saudi Arabia include specialist roles in the cyber security, legal, human resources and technology sectors, according to recent data compiled by LinkedIn.
Big Data, network security and machine learning are some of the fastest-growing skills in the region as businesses accelerate their digitisation plans after the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted operations, the world’s largest professional network said on January 23.
With hiring on the increase, what is the salary and employment outlook for jobseekers in Saudi Arabia this year?
Pay levels expected to increase across Saudi Arabia
While the average salary rise across most sectors will be about 4 per cent, 42 per cent of employers are planning to increase wages by 10 per cent or more, according to Cooper Fitch, which surveyed 600 companies for its 2022 salary guide.
Meanwhile, 68 per cent of businesses in the kingdom will increase their headcounts by 10 per cent or more, the report adds.
This compares with 39 per cent of organisations that increased salaries in 2021 by up to 10 per cent or more in sectors including sales and marketing, legal, human resources, strategy and technology.
There is strong optimism for job opportunities and salaries in Saudi Arabia over the next 12 months, according to Aaron Fletcher, business manager for recruitment specialist Hays Saudi Arabia.
“Our recent salary survey found that the vast majority [80 per cent] of employers in the kingdom plan to increase their organisational headcount this year – up on the 63 per cent who said the same last year,” Mr Fletcher says.
“Of those who will be granted a pay rise, this is expected to be by up to 5 per cent on last year”
However, it is important to remember that pay rises are not typically company-wide and instead, are individually determined based on performance or promotion, Mr Fletcher says.
“We cannot generalise that all working professionals in Saudi Arabia will experience a pay rise but the outlook is more positive than last year.”
Will bonuses return in 2022?
In good news for employees, about 80 per cent of businesses say they are planning to pay their workforce a bonus this year, according to the Cooper Fitch salary report.
“Thirty per cent of those will pay three to five months’ gross salary and 49 per cent will pay one to two months’ salary,” the report says.
“A strong recovery for bonus pay outs of 80 per cent shows a positive trajectory [for 2022].”
What benefits will jobseekers be offered in 2022?
Benefits in Saudi Arabia are usually more generous compared with the rest of the GCC region, according to Mr Fletcher.
“With so much development going on in the kingdom and the need for skills so high, we see relocation, housing and education allowances being offered as part of a standard employment package,” he says.
“Within the UAE and rest of Gulf, where talent is more readily available, these benefits are generally only offered to senior, director-level roles and above.”
Benefits will vary from one company to the next and depend on the seniority of employees, says Tiger Recruitment’s Ms Clark.
Typical benefits include allowances for housing, travel, fitness and education, as well as bonuses.
“Whether this will change in the year ahead remains to be seen,” Ms Clark says.
“Flexible working should certainly be on employers’ radar for 2022. Far too few offer it right now despite candidates telling us that it’s one of their top priorities in a new role."
On January 1, the UAE's federal government departments, schools and many private sector businesses switched to a four-and-a-half day working week, while Saturday and Sunday became the new weekend for many. However, it is not known if other GCC countries will follow suit.
“Will Saudi Arabia follow in the UAE’s footsteps by introducing a four-and-a-half day working week? It’s difficult to say but, if our UAE experience is anything to go by, its positive impact on candidate attraction could be significant,” Ms Clark says.
Mr Fletcher agrees: “We have also seen remote working options to be growing in precedence for working professionals and, interestingly, only 35 per cent of employers in Saudi Arabia offer [this]."
What will be the most resilient sectors in 2022?
A range of sectors will experience a boost in demand for talent in 2022 as the country accelerates its Vision 2030 plan, according to Cooper Fitch.
“We see the greatest demand for talent will be within major government restructuring projects, large-scale infrastructure projects, growth in the talent needs for the giga- and mega-projects and private sector growth,” the report says.
“This, coupled with the developing sectors such as entertainment, culture, heritage and destination, [means] there will be a peak demand for talent.”
While it is still early in the year, hiring activity across a number of sectors in the kingdom is "healthy" across the board, says Ms Clark.
“Sectors such as technology, FinTech, private equity and investment banking are particularly busy and is a result of the growth they experienced during the pandemic,” she adds.
Business is booming in Saudi Arabia and the jobs market landscape looks positive throughout 2022 and beyond, according to Mr Fletcher.
“With more and more projects coming into fruition, Saudi has put itself on the map as a fast growing, highly attractive market to do business, resulting in an influx of foreign investment driving job numbers.
“We are also noticing more start-ups locating in the region than previous years, looking to capitalise on the emerging opportunities coming to the country.
“Regionally, Riyadh continues to offer the greatest number of job opportunities as the central hub for business in Saudi Arabia, though Jeddah, Al Khobar, Dammam and the various giga-projects are also providing multiple opportunities.”
Challenges companies face when hiring in 2022
As demand for hiring picks up, employers will have to be decisive and move fast to attract talent, says Ms Clark.
“The market is extremely fast-moving and several employers have recently lost out on their preferred candidate because they dragged their heels,” she says.
“If Saudi employers want to attract and, indeed, secure the best talent, they’ve got to be decisive.”
However, one major challenge employers in the kingdom face is access to skilled, experienced talent as supply is limited and competition among organisations is fierce, according to Mr Fletcher.
About 55 per cent of professionals who took part in the Hays 2022 salary survey anticipated moving jobs in 2022 compared with 44 per cent last year.
“This statistic highlights just how important attraction and retention strategies are in ensuring workforce capabilities and enabling organisations in Saudi Arabia to do business,” Mr Fletcher says.
Efficiency in onboarding processes is another important factor when it comes to attraction and retention of talent, he adds.
“We have witnessed many instances in the past 12 months where professionals have turned down job offers due to lack of correspondence during interview stages and the overall process from interview to job offer exceeding one month.
“With the war on talent high among employers, all of these factors must be considered to secure the most capable professionals and stay ahead of the competition.”
What are the highest paid jobs in Saudi Arabia?
- Banking: head of private banking – 140,000-177,000 Saudi riyals (per month)
- Legal: partner (5+ years) – 104,000-229,000 riyals
- Public sector: secretariat general – 208,000+ riyals
- Strategy: chief strategy officer – 135,000-180,000 riyals
- Senior finance: group chief financial officer – 104,000-150,000 riyals
- Tax (Big4): partner (5+ years): 80,000-115,000 riyals
- Sales and marketing: general manager (FMCG) – 59,000-68,000 riyals; head of corporate communications – 51,000-56,000 riyals
- Manufacturing: managing director – 99,000-135,000 riyals
- Supply chain: general manager – 62,000-94,000 riyals
- Investment management: chief investment officer (public sector) – 130,000-208,000+ riyals
- Technology: chief information & technology officer – 94,000-125,000 riyals
- HR: chief shared services officer – 104,000-156,000 riyals