GCC salaries 2023: Wages expected to rise 5% amid buoyant hiring market

Technology remains the region’s most active sector for recruitment, survey finds

Strong market confidence and a boost in investments are expected to drive the GCC's hiring market this year. Getty Images
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Salaries across the GCC region are expected to rise by an average of 5 per cent in 2023 amid a buoyant hiring market that is being driven by strong market confidence and a boost in investments, according to recruitment specialist Hays Middle East.

Despite global economic uncertainty, the GCC has remained stable with continuous investment and diversification creating new jobs across multiple sectors, Sarah Dixon, managing director of Hays Middle East, said in the company’s 2023 GCC salary report on Tuesday.

“2023 promises to be a prosperous year for the labour market and the GCC in general,” Ms Dixon said.

“It’s now the region with one of, if not the most, positive economic outlooks for the coming years … this is positive news for jobseekers and a challenge for employers looking to attract and retain top talent.”

Last month, economists and analysts told the Abu Dhabi Economic Summit that inflation across the GCC was significantly lower than most advanced and emerging market economies.

“GCC economies, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are in a ‘sweet spot’ with solid underlying economic growth, relatively low inflationary pressures, strong public finances and external accounts supported by high oil prices,” Simon Williams, chief economist at HSBC for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said during the summit.

The global economic uncertainty has been fuelled by the Russia-Ukraine war, record-high inflation, rising interest rates and a cost-of-living crisis in many countries.

However, the GCC remained steadfast and continued to invest and grow, Hays said in the report, which polled almost 700 employers and about 1,400 candidates and employees.

About 74 per cent of employers in the GCC expect salaries within their organisation to increase this year by 5 per cent, Hays added.

Aside from salary, the benefits package is the number-one factor that attracts employees to a new role, the study found.

Flexible working, child education allowances and air tickets are the most valued benefits for employees, it added.

“Offering flexible working options is a viable way for employers to counter the fierce competition … professionals place work-life balance and flexible working as a top priority when looking for a new job,” Hays said.

“While only 49 per cent of organisations in the GCC currently offer remote or hybrid working options, 20 per cent of employers anticipate that employees will be required in the workplace more.”

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Meanwhile, technology remains the GCC’s most active industry sector for hiring, with 77 per cent of organisations increasing their headcount last year.

The hiring spree has been driven by consistent local and foreign direct investment in focus areas such as data, cyber security and cloud solutions, Hays said.

The positive hiring trend is in contrast to the global mass layoffs in the sector by companies such as Amazon, Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Twitter, Spotify and Intel, resulting in more than 125,600 workers being laid off this year alone, according to layoffs.fyi, which has been tracking technology sector job losses since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the UAE, the Arab world's second-biggest economy, companies will also accelerate hiring of Emiratis this year as they work towards meeting Emiratisation quotas and diversify their workforces, according to Hays.

In January, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the first phase of the UAE’s Emiratisation drive was a success after tens of thousands of Emiratis were successfully placed in private sector jobs last year.

In 2023, private sector companies in the UAE with at least 50 employees are required to add a total of 2 per cent of Emiratis to their workforce — 1 per cent by July 1 and another 1 per cent by the end of the year.

The UAE jobs market has made a strong recovery from the coronavirus-induced slowdown, boosted by the government’s fiscal and monetary measures.

Watch: Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

Saudi Arabia’s industrial sector is also expected to dominate the employment market this year, driven by the creation of new jobs through mega-projects such as Neom and a rise in the number of organisations setting up operations in the kingdom.

Hiring in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil sector in December increased at its fastest pace since 2018, driven by “robust” business activity, according to the Riyad Bank Saudi Arabia purchasing managers’ index.

The kingdom, which has the biggest economy in the Arab world, has created tens of thousands of 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 hydrocarbons, according to the General Authority for Statistics.

“The industrial sector is expanding at an exponential rate,” Hays said.

“With the kingdom poised to take further advantage of its abundant natural resources and central geographical location, industrial diversification into new products and materials will lead to a focus on talent with experience, technical skills and operational knowledge.”

Updated: March 08, 2023, 6:19 AM