Despite mass layoffs and uncertainty in the global technology sector, the UAE has bucked the trend with strong hiring and salary increases for skilled professionals in the industry, according to recruitment specialists.
The UAE’s technology sector was the most active in terms of hiring last year, with 77 per cent of organisations increasing their head count, the Hays 2023 GCC Salary Guide found.
“This is due, in part, to consistent local and foreign direct investment in focus areas such as data, cyber security and cloud solutions,” says Jeron van den Elshot, business director – technology at Hays.
“Additionally, with the UAE aiming to turn Dubai into one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies and a global hub for the metaverse community, a flurry of hiring activity is expected in this space in 2023.”
Dubai’s government unveiled a metaverse strategy last year that aims to create 40,000 jobs and add $4 billion to the emirate’s economy in the next five years.
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.
The majority of companies in the UAE plan to hire new employees for the remainder of the year and wages are expected to increase by just under 2 per cent this year, according to the Cooper Fitch Salary Guide 2023.
More than half of all companies (57 per cent) expect to increase salaries this year, according to the Cooper Fitch survey, which polled business leaders at 300 companies in the GCC.
About 45 per cent expect to make a 0 to 5 per cent increase, 5 per cent anticipate salary rises of 6 per cent to 9 per cent, and 7 per cent intend to boost wages by more than 10 per cent during the coming 12 months, the recruitment consultancy says in the report.
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 2023 slide show below 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.
The most popular roles in the technology sector include software developer, IT infrastructure engineer, IT engineer, DevOps engineer and digital marketing manager, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Half’s 2023 Salary Guide.
“Talent shortages are evident in data-related roles where specialised skills are required and qualified professionals are scarce,” says Mr van den Elshot.
“This means data scientists, data analytics, data engineers and machine learning professionals are all in high demand. As data continues to play a vital role in driving business growth, the intricate daily tasks of these professionals are significant for many organisations across all industries in the Gulf.”
The UAE’s high proportion of high-net-worth individuals makes the region more susceptible to cyber criminals, according to Robert Half.
As cyber threats become more sophisticated and harder to detect, the need for cyber security is greater than ever.
Skilled professionals for roles at all levels are needed but the available talent network is overloaded by demand, the Hays Salary Guide reports.
Chief information security officers, security managers, security architects, security engineers, and security analysts are all in demand in the region and competition to secure these sought-after professionals is high, Mr van den Elshot explains.
Hiring for cyber security experts and data and automation specialists is on the rise, particularly with finance companies as they look to protect customer data, says the Robert Half report.
As retail continues to move online, business leaders are seeking digital marketing experts who can improve digital user experience and expand their online presence, according to the consultancy.
“The ability to accurately track return on investment is essential and businesses are focusing on candidates with demonstrable search engine optimisation, pay per click and social media expertise.”
Meanwhile, recruiter Michael Page says in its 2023 UAE Salary Guide that data management and governance professionals, advanced analytics/statistics roles and data engineering professionals are in demand in the UAE.
Roles popular in the UAE’s digital industry are product development, user experience design, digital leadership, e-commerce specialist and performance marketing, Michael Page says.
What skills are employers looking for?
Technical skills in demand among the UAE’s tech companies include cyber security experience, data automation, Node.js, Java and Python, according to Robert Half’s salary guide.
Most sought-after soft skills are stakeholder management, flexibility, leadership, management, storytelling and business partnering, the consultancy says.
“Technology has created a need for people who can dissect data and identify patterns and trends. This ability is essential for making sound decisions that can improve efficiency and bottom line,” the Michael Page salary guide states.
“As a result, those with an analytical mind are in high demand, and their skills are well compensated.”
Software development is also an in-demand skill in the Middle East.
Top 15 companies to work for in the UAE, according to LinkedIn – in pictures
With so many businesses and organisations turning to technology to stay competitive, the need for talented software developers is greater than ever, Michael Page says.
Skills in demand in the UAE’s data sector are data management and governance, data engineering and senior leadership roles across all data categories.
In the digital industry, there is demand for skills like user experience, product management and digital leadership, the recruiter says.
Are salaries expected to rise in the technology sector?
Last year, employees in the UAE’s technology sector enjoyed the highest recorded proportion of salary increases since the pandemic, according to the Hays salary report.
More than half (51 per cent) of technology professionals’ salaries increased last year, compared with the 45 per cent who received a pay increase the previous year.
The main reason for a salary increase was a new job with a new organisation and the average increase was by 15 per cent or more, highlighting the level of competition among employers for top talent, Hays says.
Seventy-eight per cent of employees in the tech industry expect to receive a salary increase this year.
“While this is largely in line with the 68 per cent of employers that plan to increase salaries in their organisation, there’s a clash of opinions between groups in terms of rate of increase – employees expect an average increase of 15 per cent or more and most employers are planning an increase of 5 per cent or less,” Hays says.
What other benefits can employees expect?
While a base salary is essential to attract and retain talent, technology companies in the UAE are increasingly offering benefits that go beyond simply providing a paycheque, according to Michael Page.
Some companies offer flexible working to help employees balance work and family responsibilities, it says.
Many offer fitness memberships and other wellness benefits to help employees stay healthy and productive.
Currently, the most valued benefit for tech employees in the UAE is flexible working, according to the Hays salary report.
Nearly six in 10 (59 per cent) employees receive some form of hybrid or remote working options, and 71 per cent are satisfied with their work-life balance, the report finds.
“Employers that prioritise flexible working arrangements will be at an advantage – looking beyond borders by offering remote and flexible work is a viable way to counter the swell in demand,” Mr van den Elshot says.
“If any large tech companies call their employees back to the office, organisations with more flexible policies could reach out to poach those thinking of moving on.”
About 31 per cent of technology professionals changed roles in 2022, up from 26 per cent who started a new role the previous year, the Hays salary report reveals.
The main reason cited for changing roles was that benefits were not aligned with their needs.
“To win talent over, businesses are allowing people to work remotely initially before revisiting long-term relocation,” Robert Half says.
“With growing European businesses operating in Dubai, more clients are looking for European developers, either to work from the UAE or their home countries.
“Home or away, developers can command high salaries, so businesses need to pay and be flexible if they want to secure the best talent.”
What are the highest paying jobs in the digital and technology sector?
- Chief digital officer: Dh95,000 ($25,867) to Dh126,000 (per month)
- Chief information and technology officer: Dh95,000 to Dh115,000
- Chief information security officer: Dh84,000 to Dh95,000
- Chief product officer: Dh73,000 to Dh95,000
- Product director: Dh76,000 to Dh87,000
- Vice president of digital transformation: Dh68,000 to Dh84,000
- Data governance director: Dh71,000 to Dh81,000
- Head of data science: Dh63,000 to Dh78,000
- IT director: Dh63,000 to Dh73,000
- Director of analytics: Dh58,000 to Dh73,000
- Lead enterprise architect: Dh56,000 to Dh73,000
- Programme director: Dh61,000 to Dh71,000
- Head of digital: Dh54,000 to Dh69,000
- Head of cloud business unit: Dh53,000 to Dh68,000
- Digital transformation manager: Dh56,000 to Dh66,000
- Cyber security manager: Dh51,000 to Dh61,000
- Data architect: Dh46,000 to Dh56,000
- Data scientist: Dh42,000 to Dh53,000
Source: Cooper Fitch