Mega projects in the region and property development in the hospitality industry are driving demand for experienced professionals in the UAE’s property and construction sector, according to recruitment specialists.
The most sought-after professionals are those with experience in the design and planning stages of a project through to delivery, the Hays 2023 GCC Salary Guide says.
“Certain areas were busier than others – real estate development in the hospitality industry maintained a steady pace throughout the year,” says Aaron Fletcher, senior manager of construction, property and engineering at Hays.
“Additionally, design consultancies were busy recruiting staff to meet project demand in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
About a quarter (24 per cent) of construction, property and engineering professionals in the UAE changed roles in 2022, compared with 23 per cent who started a new job in 2021, Hays reports.
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 measures.
The majority of companies in the Emirates plan to hire new employees for the remainder of the year and wages are expected to increase by just under 2 per cent in 2023, 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.
With hiring on the increase in the UAE’s property and construction sector, what are the most sought-after 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.
Which property jobs are in demand?
As with previous years, construction delivery roles, including project/construction directors and senior managers, will be required in 2023, according to the Hays salary guide.
Much of this demand will come from the flagship big projects in Saudi Arabia – such as Red Sea Global, Neom, the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and Roshn – that have progressed further in their construction stages, the consultancy estimates.
“For new giga-projects at the design and planning stages, architectural designers and urban planners will be required,” it says.
“Additionally, due to a talent shortage, development directors/managers and candidates who have experience implementing digital technology, especially building information management, will be highly sought-after.”
Recruiter Michael Page says in its 2023 UAE Salary Guide that positions in demand in the UAE’s property and construction sector include project directors and development, real estate asset, leasing, and property and facilities managers.
What job skills are employers looking for?
Experience in managing projects from inception through to handover is desirable, according to Hays.
Employers look for stability and a proven track record of end-to-end project management, the recruiter says.
Equally, as projects evolve, progress and sometimes change direction, a flexible attitude towards work is essential. Employers are increasingly seeking out candidates with a “start-up mentality” that are willing to go above and beyond to deliver, Hays says.
Meanwhile, Michael Page cites real estate consultancy, development and real estate asset management as sought-after roles in the UAE.
“There is a shortage of talent across the GCC for the major real estate consultancies and Big Four organisations offering real estate advisory services such as valuations, development advisory, transaction advisory and more,” it says.
“Major projects have been announced across the region and these companies are busier than ever.”
Organisations are also expanding their project portfolios across the GCC as they looking for new project opportunities to add to their portfolios.
Therefore, development professionals with extensive experience in the initial phases of development such as market research, feasibility and business development are in high demand, Michael Page explains.
“Organisations are also looking to enhance their real estate portfolios. Announcements from key players in the sector with plans to expand portfolios, refurbish or convert assets to meet the market demands has been a common theme,” it says.
“Property and asset management specialists are in demand to support plans to enhance or reposition current portfolios and offer strategic advice to future projects.”
Are salaries expected to rise in the property sector?
Professionals within the property and construction sector feel positive about their pay for this year, with 73 per cent expecting their salary to increase, Hays finds.
Equally, 76 per cent of employers expect rates of pay within their organisation to increase.
However, with employers in the GCC increasingly offering more sustainable salaries and, instead, opting to sell themselves as an employer of choice, the average expected salary increase is 5 per cent or less, according to Hays.
“Employees with high-level responsibilities and strong individual performance are most likely to have their pay increase request approved,” the recruiter says.
What other benefits can employees expect?
Retaining talent has become a top priority in the property and construction sector and organisations are addressing this with consistent promotions, clear lines of career development, full bonus payouts and competitive salaries, according to Michael Page.
“It is a great opportunity for international candidates with these skill sets considering a move to the GCC,” it says.
Developers, property consultancies and construction specialists have been recruiting in large volumes, making the market extremely competitive for employers in terms of securing and retaining top talent, the consultancy says.
“Salaries have increased, benefits are becoming more versatile and people now desire flexible working, such as work-from-home policies,” it says.
“Some employers are meeting the markets' demands; however, many are still operating like pre-Covid times.”
When budgets are limited, organisations must look at their incentives and the candidate motivations, Michael Page recommends.
In a market where candidates’ priorities have changed and family and wellness have become the priority, organisations must learn to accommodate this to remain competitive, the consultancy says.
Aside from the salary and benefits package, the availability of career development opportunities and work-life balance (including flexible working options) are the most important factors for employees when considering a new role, Hays reports.
Employers that want to retain staff should focus on upskilling and reskilling their existing workforce by providing ongoing professional development, it suggests.
What are the highest-paying jobs in the property and construction sector?
Development and design
Chief development officer: Dh126,000 ($34,300) to Dh252,000 a month
Executive director of development: Dh84,000 to Dh158,000
Executive director of design: Dh76,000 to Dh122,000
Director of development: Dh53,000 to Dh90,000
Director of design: Dh53,000 to Dh90,000
Director of urban planning: Dh53,000 to Dh90,000
Senior development manager: Dh41,000 to Dh69,000
Senior design manager: Dh38,000 to Dh64,000
Senior urban planning manager: Dh37,000 to 61,000
Design manager: Dh26,000 to Dh47,000
Development manager: Dh26,000 to Dh47,000
Urban planning manager: Dh26,000 to Dh42,000
Construction and project management
Chief projects officer: Dh102,000 to Dh214,000
Executive director of project delivery: Dh73,000 to Dh125,000
Director of infrastructure: Dh61,000 to Dh88,000
Commercial director: Dh61,000 to Dh87,000
Director of project controls: Dh60,000 to Dh79,000
Director of construction: Dh53,000 to Dh73,000
Project director: Dh53,000 to Dh73,000
Senior project manager: Dh37,000 to Dh53,000
Senior commercial manager: Dh36,000 to Dh53,000
Senior manager of project controls: Dh36,000 to 52,000
Project manager: Dh21,000 to Dh37,000
Construction manager: Dh21,000 to Dh37,000
Commercial manager: Dh20,000 to Dh36,000
Project controls manager: Dh20,000 to Dh35,000
Sales and post construction
Executive director of sales: Dh78,000 to Dh115,000
Executive director of asset management: Dh78,000 to Dh105,000
Executive director of facilities management: Dh61,000 to Dh97,000
Director of asset management: Dh63,000 to Dh84,000
Director of sales: Dh58,000 to Dh78,000
Director of leasing: Dh47,000 to Dh73,000
Senior asset manager: Dh53,000 to Dh68,000
Director of facilities: Dh37,000 to Dh58,000
Asset manager: Dh26,000 to Dh42,000
Property manager: Dh21,000 to Dh42,000
Facilities manager: Dh21,000 to 42,000
Leasing manager: Dh21,000 to Dh37,000
Sales manager: Dh21,000 to Dh37,000
Real estate consultant
Surveyor: Dh18,000 to Dh28,000
Consultant – advisory: Dh18,000 to Dh28,000
Manager – valuations/advisory: Dh30,000 to Dh35,000
Project /commercial director: Dh60,000 to Dh80,000
Project /commercial manager: Dh35,000 to Dh55,000
Civil engineer: Dh15,000 to Dh25,000
Architect: Dh15,000 to Dh30,000
Source: Cooper Fitch and Michael Page