Most UAE and Saudi employees would switch jobs for better benefits

Employers that offer workplace savings and pension plans are attractive to employees, survey by Zurich International Life finds

Women and younger employees in the 25-34 age group are proactively exploring new career opportunities, a Zurich International study has found. Getty Images
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Most (84 per cent) employees in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said they would willingly change jobs for a new role with the same pay but better benefits, a survey by Swiss insurer Zurich International Life has found.

About one in four employees in the Emirates and Saudi Arabia switched jobs in the past year, drawn by better remuneration, enhanced employee benefits and professional advancement opportunities, according to the survey, which polled 2,507 respondents in July and August.

In Saudi Arabia, 78 per cent of employees are considering changing jobs in the next 12 months to 18 months, with a similar sentiment shared by 74 per cent of their UAE counterparts, the survey found.

Women and younger employees in the 25-34 age group are particularly proactive in exploring new career opportunities, the findings showed.

UAE launches new gratuity scheme

UAE launches new gratuity scheme

“Employee benefits have taken centrestage and are rapidly evolving, pushing employers to adopt a holistic approach to talent retention,” said Adam Watterson, senior executive officer at Zurich Workplace Solutions.

“One of the trending areas is workplace savings and pensions for expatriates concerned about their retirement planning.

“End-of-service benefits will play a pivotal role in drawing talent from international markets and fostering financial stability.

“The global pandemic drove both employers and employees to rethink priorities, and employers have become more accommodative to include mutually beneficial retention policies.”

The Covid-19 pandemic placed employee financial issues in the spotlight and many companies in the UAE are now coming up with plans to help workers bridge their retirement savings gap.

Retirement savings are the biggest financial challenge faced by employees in the GCC countries, according to a survey by global advisory company Willis Towers Watson in January.

However, a survey by Sharia-compliant savings and investment company National Bonds in July found that 82 per cent of employees in the UAE are open to employers investing their end-of-service benefits.

In September, the UAE introduced an optional savings retirement plan that allows employees in private and free zone sectors to invest their end-of-service benefits to build long-term wealth.

The initiative will involve the formation of savings and investment funds overseen by the Securities and Commodities Authority, in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

The plan is optional for employers to join and offers three investment options, depending on an employee’s level of investment risk.

The UAE has undertaken several economic, legal and social reforms to attract skilled workers, including the introduction of a mandatory unemployment insurance plan that will pay Emiratis and residents a cash sum for three months if they lose their job.

Dubai’s savings retirement plan for foreign employees working in the emirate’s government and public sector also came into effect in July last year.

The pension fund offers the government’s foreign workers a choice of investment plans, including Sharia-compliant options, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said at the time.

The DIFC was the first entity in the UAE to set up a new gratuity system when it introduced the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings plan, or Dews, in February 2020.

The free zone’s employers are required to make monthly contributions of 5.83 per cent or 8.33 per cent of an employee’s wage, depending on their length of service, to a fund administered by Zurich International Life Middle East.

Employees can also choose to make voluntary contributions to the Dews plan.

Meanwhile, the Zurich International Life survey found that flexibility within the workplace emerged as a key factor in attracting and retaining talent, from both an employer and employee perspective.

Other critical factors relate to the importance of having a diverse workforce and addressing pay gaps in the market, the survey revealed.

Employee benefits remain central to establishing long-term relationships between employers and employees, with nearly nine in 10 employees polled considering employee benefits as an extremely important pillar, often surpassing the importance of salary, the findings showed.

The most preferred employee benefits among workers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are those concerning workplace savings, financial well-being and education, life insurance, child education allowances and critical illness cover, according to the poll.

The survey also found that both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are grappling with a talent shortage, standing at about 24 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

This shortage is most pronounced in the operations and logistics sectors in both countries, the findings revealed.

Updated: October 24, 2023, 11:44 AM