Hiring activity is robust in the UAE’s property and construction industries as they continue to recover from Covid-19 headwinds on the back of economic support measures and government initiatives that include an expansion of the golden visa programme and new visas for retirees and digital nomads.
Most in-demand construction, property and engineering professionals are those with industry qualifications and several years of like-for-like experience, according to recruitment consultancy Cooper Fitch.
Employers are seeking candidates with a proven track record of success in delivering projects and sales on time and to budget, Cooper Fitch says in its 2022 Salary Guide.
“With large-scale property and infrastructure construction projects being dominant, the real estate and construction sectors are hiring but the types of roles are changing,” says Deepa Sud, chief executive of Plum Jobs, a Dubai executive search consultancy.
“As developers and operators endeavour to maximise returns on shareholders’ investments, we are hiring for more commercial roles that are value-driven and collaborative. These require different skills than the traditional building and project management expertise that were once much sought-after.”
The UAE property market, which softened due to a three-year oil price slump that began in 2014, oversupply concerns and the pandemic, has turned a page and is recovering.
UAE property prices are set to continue rising in 2022, driven by supportive economic reforms and an accelerated vaccination programme that has helped to hasten a rebound from the coronavirus-induced slowdown last year.
Economic support measures and government initiatives — such as residency permits for retirees and remote workers in addition to the expansion of the 10-year golden visa programme — have also helped to improve market sentiment.
Residential property prices in Dubai rose 21 per cent in the first 10 months of 2021 to Dh1,235 per square foot in October, from Dh1,021 per square foot in January, according to a recent Knight Frank study.
“We have started 2022 with a greater focus on leadership and management who can drive change to adopt modern methods of construction and integrated technologies to optimise time and costs,” Ms Sud says.
“In addition, because of the increased risks due to the disruption of global supply chains and volatile financial markets, there is increased attention being paid to addressing them. We are placing more senior managers who have demonstrated capabilities in managing such risks.”
What positions are in demand?
Positions in demand in the UAE’s property and construction sectors include project director, project manager, real estate asset management and leasing and facilities management, according to recruitment consultancy Michael Page’s 2022 Salary Guide.
“With the launching and ongoing development of many construction and real estate projects, demand for design/pre-construction professionals is significant,” says Aaron Fletcher, business manager responsible for construction, property and engineering at recruitment consultancy Hays.
“Roles highest in demand include urban designers, master planners, architectural designers and engineering designers with proven project experience.”
With organisations expanding their business development strategy to include neighbouring countries to diversify risk of a thinning project pipeline locally, there has been an increase in demand for experienced project delivery staff to support such projects, Michael Page says.
Cost planning and pre-construction commercial managers are also in demand as more projects are entering the site delivery stage, according to the consultancy.
With real estate companies looking to enhance their portfolio and focus on maintenance and tenant satisfaction to retain occupancy, property management and real estate asset managers are in demand, it says.
What skills are employers looking for?
Although construction and real estate lacked the technological innovation of other industries, this is now rapidly changing, according to Mr Fletcher.
“Candidates who have experience working on digitalised projects have become a very desirable asset to employers in the region as they embrace more technological innovations,” Mr Fletcher says.
Building information management (BIM) is widely used across the Middle East to improve project visibility and help to reduce the risk of project overspend.
“We are seeing knowledge of BIM to be an increasingly common prerequisite for design or pre-construction roles. In addition, candidates that have experience of delivering projects using innovative technology, such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, blockchain, drones and cloud computing, are more in demand,” Mr Fletcher says.
Modular manufacturing and off-site construction are significant areas that are changing the way the construction industry is operating, according to Ms Sud.
Technology such as wearables, drones, crane cameras, 3D printing and laser scanning are pushing the boundaries of construction, she says.
There is also increasing demand for professionals with PropTech expertise, according to Hays. This includes knowledge of apps and web portals that help companies to better engage with and enhance the lifestyles of their communities.
“I expect hiring activity to pick up considerably in the year ahead. Projects which stalled due to the pandemic are now moving ahead and progressing for completion,” says Zahra Clark, Mena region head at Dubai-based Tiger Recruitment.
“At the same time, we have seen a large number of new projects announced recently across both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which is creating demand for talent.”
Are salaries expected to rise in the property and construction sectors?
Hays expects the vast majority of salaries in the property and construction industries to either remain the same or increase annually in 2022.
Fifty-four per cent of construction, property and engineering professionals expect their salary to increase in 2022 while 45 per cent believe it will remain the same and only 1 per cent expect a decrease, according to Hays.
Those confident about a pay rise in 2022 expect an increase of 6 per cent to 10 per cent, Hays says in its GCC Salary Guide 2022.
Relocation, housing and education allowances are generally only offered to senior, director-level roles and above in the UAE’s property and construction sectors, Mr Fletcher says.
What other benefits can employees expect?
Organisations must work on making their benefits, incentives and remuneration attractive enough to retain top talent, Michael Page says in its 2022 Salary Guide.
“Be open to meet the local market salary benchmarks, as well as find other ways to ensure employees feel valued and will be loyal,” the consultancy says.
Companies need to offer more competitive remuneration packages to attract and retain a good calibre of candidates, Ms Sud says.
“We are advising our clients to structure senior level remuneration packages based on project deliverables. These bonuses are more lucrative than the standard benefits that have traditionally been offered such as housing, transport and schooling allowances,” she says.
There is a growing demand for flexible working in the property and construction sectors, according to Tiger Recruitment’s Ms Clark.
Flexible working has emerged as one of the top benefits employees are looking for, second only to salary, she says. Employers are responding to the demand by offering perks such as flexible working days.
“Some are even considering introducing the UAE federal government’s 4.5-day work week. Wellness allowances are also becoming more popular,” Ms Clark says.
What are the highest paid jobs in the property and construction sector?
- Project director — Dh70,000 (per month)
- Project manager — Dh45,000
- Development director — Dh70,000
- Facilities director — Dh62,000
- Facilities manager — Dh23,000
- Leasing manager — Dh35,000
- Asset manager — Dh44,000
- Contracting general manager — Dh67,000
- Contracting project director — Dh70,000
- Contracting project manager — Dh40,000
- Quantity surveyor — Dh20,000
- Civil engineer — Dh18,000
- Architect — Dh25,000
- Chief development officer — Dh124,000-Dh247,000
- Director of development — Dh52,000-Dh88,000
- Director of design — Dh52,000-Dh88,000
- Director of planning — Dh52,000-Dh88,000
- Design manager — Dh26,000-Dh46,000
- Planning manager — Dh26,000-Dh41,000
- Chief projects officer — Dh124,000-Dh237,000
- Executive director of project delivery — Dh72,000-Dh103,000
- Director of construction — Dh52,000-Dh72,000
- Executive director of sales — Dh77,000-Dh113,000
- Executive director of asset management — Dh77,000-Dh103,000
- Director of asset management — Dh62,000-Dh82,000
- Director of sales — Dh57,000-Dh77,000
- Director of leasing — Dh46,000-Dh72,000