The UAE recorded the highest demand for office support professionals in the region as the economy rallies on the back of high market confidence, strong foreign direct investment and companies accelerating hiring plans to attract the best talent, recruitment specialists say.
Employers in the financial services, professional services, legal and industrial sectors continue to expand their office support teams across roles including administration, secretarial, personal assistants and executive assistants, the Hays 2023 GCC Salary Guide says.
In contrast, employers in the education and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors are recruiting less as they have already built and developed in-house teams, the research shows.
“There’s a high demand for executive assistants in the UAE, particularly in Abu Dhabi, where the market has been growing rapidly but the candidate pool remains limited,” says Jarren Smith, consultant for office support jobs at Hays.
“As such, employers in the region find it challenging to secure experienced talent, and competition between organisations is high.”
The job market in the UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, has recovered well from the pandemic thanks largely to fiscal and social measures taken by the government.
Most companies in the Emirates plan to hire more employees during 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 companies (57 per cent) expect to increase salaries this year, according to Cooper Fitch, which polled leaders at 300 companies in the GCC.
Office support professionals changed roles at the highest rate in any sector in the UAE last year, Hays reports.
Thirty-seven per cent of office support employees changed roles in 2022 compared with 23 per cent that started a new job the previous year.
When asked about hiring intentions for 2023, 56 per cent of employers in the office support sector say that they plan to recruit permanent employees, Hays says.
Within the UAE, contracting and outsourcing are popular, and 22 per cent of employers plan to recruit office support freelancers and/or contractors this year, it adds.
With hiring rates increasing in the UAE’s office support 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 jobs are in demand?
Michael Page says in its 2023 UAE Salary Guide that the jobs most in demand in the UAE’s office support industry include executive assistant (C-level), office manager, receptionist, office administrator/team assistant, and personal assistant.
Sixty per cent of the UAE’s office support employers say that intermediate and management level positions are the hardest to fill, according to Hays.
Professionals with regional knowledge and experience in multinational organisations will be sought-after. Moreover, multitasking and strong communication skills remain essential, the recruiter says.
What job skills are employers looking for?
The role of a business executive assistant/personal assistant has evolved over the past few years, the Michael Page report says.
“Beyond the universally understood duties, the modern-day EA/PA is often required to now facilitate corporate duties involving, but not limited to, client onboarding, compliance and even project management depending on the nature of the company.
“Businesses are now looking for support candidates that are eager to learn and assist with the core business expectations, instead of just providing administrative support. This is a step forward in providing support candidates with the opportunity for growth and progression. Companies consider this as a cost benefit.”
The market now recognises support candidates as a necessity as opposed to a luxury, according to the Michael Page report.
Support/secretarial candidates are expected to provide solutions to complex requests and lighten personal responsibilities of their senior stakeholders so they can focus on core activities, the consultancy says.
Requests can vary from managing a complex travel itinerary to collating information from key stakeholders for reports/projects.
“In previous years, work experience and transferable skills were enough to be selected as the successful candidate for an office support role,” Michael Page says.
“However, in this competitive market, the decision of who to hire and why has needed to be more rigorous for employers to make a decision between a strong shortlist.
“Diplomas and university degrees can help a candidate to demonstrate a competitive edge and help convince an employer of the long-term time investment as well as growth potential.”
Are salaries expected to rise in the sector?
Office support professionals in the UAE are optimistic about their rate of pay, with 69 per cent expecting to receive a salary increase in 2023, the Hays Salary Guide shows.
Conversely, 56 per cent of employers in the Emirates expect salaries within their organisation to increase.
In 2022, only 37 per cent of those polled by Hays received a salary increase. However, those that received a wage rise experienced a significant improvement, most commonly by 15 per cent or more.
The main reason cited for a salary increase was a new job with a new organisation, according to Hays.
Intermediate-level professionals experienced the highest salary increases, with 48 per cent of this cohort being awarded a pay rise, it says.
“The No 1 factor employers take into account when considering an employee’s pay rise request is individual performance, followed by length of service,” Ms Smith of Hays says.
What other benefits can employees expect?
When office support professionals moved jobs last year, the main reason for their change was salary. Aside from salary, professionals in the sector value air ticket allowances, flexible working, and child education allowances, Hays reports.
While air ticket allowances and flexible working are common benefits employees currently receive, only 13 per cent of employees in this sector receive child education allowances.
Three in 10 (31 per cent) office support professionals in the UAE cited lack of career development opportunities as the main reason they plan to change organisation but stay within the same role or industry this year, the Hays report shows.
“Employers that want to retain staff should consider upskilling initiatives and create more comprehensive ways for people to continue their professional development,” the consultancy says.
Lengthy interview processes, counter-offers and selling your brand versus your competition are challenges employers need to adapt to in this current market in order to retain talent.
“Secretarial and office support staff are in high demand and it is crucial for employers to be aware of the variables that can contribute to your business being chosen over your competition,” it says.
“A well-planned, streamlined interview process is pivotal to keep candidates engaged and interested in your vacancy. Consistent, transparent communication throughout the process will help avoid awkward conversations at offer stage and strengthen your brand’s reputation.
“Creating a memorable experience from the very beginning is important to ensure the candidate experience is pleasant, boosting the chance of a great candidate accepting your job offer over others and reducing the chance of accepting a counter-offer.”
What are the highest-paying jobs in the office support sector?
Professional and financial services
- Executive assistant to C-level (five+ years’ experience): Dh25,000 ($6,807) to Dh35,000 a month
- Office manager (five+ years’ experience): Dh25,000 to Dh40,000
- Personal assistant (five+ years’ experience): Dh20,000 to Dh30,000
- Private personal assistant (five+ years’ experience): Dh20,000 to Dh30,000
- Legal secretary (private practice): Dh17,000 to Dh25,000
- Executive assistant – multi support (five+ years’ experience): Dh18,000 to Dh25,000
- Team assistant: Dh10,000 to Dh18,000
- Receptionist: Dh8,000 to Dh16,000
- Administrator: Dh8,000 to Dh15,000
- Executive assistant to C-level (five+ years’ experience): Dh20,000 to Dh30,000
- Office manager (five+ years’ experience): Dh20,000 to Dh30,000
- Legal secretary (in-house): Dh14,000 to Dh25,000
- Executive assistant – multi support (five+ years’ experience): Dh15,000 to Dh23,000
- Administration manager: Dh12,000 to Dh20,000
- Receptionist: Dh8,000 to Dh15,000
- Administrator: Dh8,000 to Dh15,000
- Customer service: Dh8,000 to Dh15,000
- Receptionist: Dh11,000 to Dh16,000
- General administration: Dh13,000 to Dh16,000
- Senior administration: Dh18,000 to Dh25,000
- Legal secretary: Dh19,000 to Dh27,000
- Team assistant: Dh17,000 to Dh25,000
- Executive assistant: Dh18,000 to 35,000
- Office manager: Dh22,000 to Dh35,000
- Receptionist: Dh8,000 to Dh12,000
- General administration: Dh7,000 to Dh13,000
- Personal assistant: Dh14,000 to Dh22,000
- Executive assistant: Dh15,000 to Dh22,000
- Office manager: Dh17,000 to Dh23,000
- Receptionist: Dh10,000 to Dh15,000
- General administration: Dh10,000 to Dh18,000
- Office manager: Dh22,000 to Dh30,000
- Executive assistant: Dh22,000 to Dh32,000
Source: Hays and Michael Page