The UAE’s technology sector has dominated demand for new hires since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by businesses accelerating their digital plans and global tech companies expanding in the Middle East, according to recruitment specialists.
This year is no different, with some companies struggling to find talent because of increased competition for candidates with in-demand technology skills.
“We have seen an increase in demand for talent from tech companies that are growing their teams … as well as increased foreign direct investment by global tech companies expanding into the Middle East and, therefore, building their capabilities here,” Sarah Dixon, managing director of Hays Middle East, says in the company’s 2022 GCC Salary Guide.
The jobs market in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, has made a strong recovery from the coronavirus-induced slowdown on the back of the government’s fiscal and monetary measures.
The pick-up in economic activity and business confidence spells good news for skilled technology job seekers.
Meanwhile, about two thirds of professionals in the UAE will actively look for new jobs in the first half of this year as business confidence and hiring activity return to pre-pandemic levels, a February survey by recruitment company Robert Walters found.
Salary increases and bonuses continue to be the main incentives for retaining employees within a business, while salaries for new hires increased at a faster pace than existing workers’ pay in the past 18 months, the survey revealed.
New employees' pay increased by 6 per cent to 8 per cent on average, but rose by up to 20 per cent in industries such as technology, Robert Walters said.
“The demand for digital talent has increased on a global scale and across borders,” recruitment company Michael Page says in its 2022 UAE Salary Guide.
“Post the pandemic, candidates prefer working remotely, while organisations are looking for talent to be locally based.”
With hiring on the increase in the technology sector, what are the most in-demand jobs and how much do they pay?
Read on to find out – and check out our comprehensive UAE salary guide 2022 slide show above for a snapshot of your sector.
What positions are in demand?
There are numerous roles that are in demand in the UAE’s digital and technology sectors.
Candidates specialising in user experience design, digital marketing, product development, digital transformation project management and e-commerce leadership are in demand as companies scale up their digital plans.
"Online platforms, enterprise software systems and mobile apps and websites have been scaled or created from scratch to meet the growing demand for digital interfaces, services and products," says Michael Page in its salary report.
Meanwhile, technology roles are rapidly increasing due to companies digitising their processes to enable, for example, flexible working.
In-demand technology roles include front end and full stack developers, heads of software engineering, cloud architects and engineers, and IT project managers.
“In the past, most of the demand we saw were from highly regulated sectors and software development outsourcing companies. However, recently we have seen an increase in start-ups and scale ups looking to employ their own talent,” the Michael Page report says.
“The shortage of skilled talent in this space is a growing problem globally.”
However, certain roles in technology have had a high turnover rate because of market demand for candidates, Michael Page adds.
To offset this challenge, companies should build a good talent pipeline by nurturing inactive candidates and keeping them interested, the recruiter says.
“Additionally, constantly investing in growing the employer brand will always help in attracting and retaining top talent.”
What skills are employers looking for?
There is demand for specialists with strong technical software skills, as well as candidates with experience in cloud computing and technology consulting, according to the Michael Page report.
“More and more businesses in the Middle East (similar to the rest of the world) are adopting cloud solutions, which has resulted in a rise in demand for this skillset,” it says.
“This was already under way, however, the pandemic had a major impact in expediting this to achieve business continuity.”
There is also demand for candidates with strong skills in artificial intelligence, data science, cyber security, the Internet of Things and machine learning, Hays says in its salary report.
“Employers are looking for skilled, technical specialists who have like-for-like product/software experience and there is typically a shortage of supply of such talent in the region,” Hays says.
“As such, competition among employers for top talent is high and we have noticed more and more organisations onboarding new employees remotely from countries outside of the Gulf.”
Are salaries expected to rise in the technology sector?
On average, UAE salaries are expected to rise by an average of 3 per cent to 5 per cent in 2022, depending on the sector, according to the Hays salary report.
However, in the technology industry, 56 per cent of professionals are expecting a salary increase of between 6 per cent and 10 per cent, Hays says.
About 50 per cent of technology professionals said their salaries remained the same year-on-year in 2021, 45 per cent said it had increased and only 5 per cent reported a decrease, it adds.
“This proportion of increases was higher than we have seen in the profession for the past two years and the number of decreases was the lowest of all professions surveyed … both further evidence of the resilience and buoyancy of the technology profession.”
What other benefits can employees expect?
Salary and career development are the top two factors that attract technology professionals to companies in the UAE.
However, flexible and remote working are also important benefits for job-seekers in the sector, with the most common offering being the option to work from home full-time, according to Hays.
“It is clear that following the pandemic, remote working is considered to be an important factor for professionals considering a new employer and an offering that must, where possible, be incorporated into organisations’ attraction and retention strategies.”
Meanwhile, the global rise of the remote working model means that employers are competing for talent on an unprecedented level, the Michael Page report says.
“Where possible, remote working and hybrid models should be explored, while traditional compensation and benefits packages must also be reviewed to ensure employees are receiving attractive, yet fair incentives,” it adds.
What are the highest paid jobs in the digital and technology sector?
- Chief information officer: Dh70,000-Dh130,000 (per month)
- Chief technology officer: Dh50,000-Dh120,000
- IT director: Dh40,000-Dh80,000
- Head of IT: Dh30,000-Dh75,000
- IT manager: Dh20,000-Dh50,000
- UX director: Dh50,000-Dh70,000
- UX/UI designer: Dh15,000-Dh25,000
- Head of digital: Dh35,000-Dh70,000
- Digital transformation manager: Dh35,000-Dh65,000
- Digital project manager: Dh20,000-Dh30,000
- Senior back end developer: Dh25,000-Dh40,000
- Full stack developer: Dh20,000-Dh35,000
- Front end developer: Dh12,000-Dh22,000
- Head of enterprise architecture: Dh50,000-Dh75,000
- Cloud architect: Dh25,000-Dh60,000
Source: Michael Page