UAE salaries: Which jobs received the biggest increases in 2023?

Human resources professionals recorded the biggest wage hike of 4.4 per cent annually, according to Robert Half

The average salary increase in human resources is 4.4 per cent, driven by demand for compensation and benefits experts. Getty
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UAE salaries for professional services roles increased by an average of 2 per cent in 2023 as an influx of talent to the region and more competition for roles shifted the market in favour of employers, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Half.

While wages in most sectors in the Emirates experienced a small uplift, the average annual increase in the human resources sector was more than double that of other industries, Robert Half said in its 2024 Salary Guide.

The average salary increase in human resources is 4.4 per cent, driven by demand for compensation and benefits experts, and talented administrators.

Professionals in the finance and accounting sector experienced an average salary increase of 1.6 per cent this year, followed by financial services at 1.2 per cent, information technology sector at 1.2 per cent and legal at 0.7 per cent, according to the salary guide.

The report analysed starting salaries across more than 100 professional services roles within the finance and accounting, financial services, IT and technology, human resources and legal sectors.

“The UAE has become the ultimate lifestyle move – and demand from expats has never been higher,” Gareth El Mettouri, associate director for the Middle East at Robert Half, said.

“With an influx of talent flooding the region and more competition for roles, candidates are willing to accept lower packages to give themselves a foothold in the Middle East, which brings down the overall market rate and restricts salary growth.”

The jobs market in the UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, has recovered well from the Covid-19 pandemic thanks largely to fiscal and social measures taken by the government to attract skilled workers and incentivise companies to set up or expand their operations.

Most companies in the Emirates plan to hire more employees during the rest of the year, and wages are expected to increase by slightly under 2 per cent this year, according to the Cooper Fitch Salary Guide 2023.

More than half of companies (57 per cent) expect to raise salaries this year, according to Cooper Fitch, which polled senior management at 300 companies in the GCC.

However, the UAE is seeing a shift to an employers’ market, with more people moving here due to the luxury lifestyle and economic headwinds in other countries, according to Robert Half.

“The UAE government’s efforts to create a welcoming environment for businesses are paying off. Many companies are setting up or establishing new offices in the region, driving demand for talent across sectors,” Mr El Mettouri said.

“However, global and regional instability is seeing many companies put their hiring plans on pause until next year in the hope of gaining clarity on what the future holds for the global economy.”

There is less movement of talent at a senior level in the finance and accounting sector, but candidates in middle management positions are in demand – particularly in corporate accounting, the data found.

In IT and technology, there is still significant demand for project managers and senior leaders who can set up offices as more businesses move to the region, the report said.

Those fluent in both Arabic and English will be able to command the best salaries in the legal sector. Corporate lawyers are also in demand as the volume of initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions soars, it added.

In the financial services sector, more businesses are offering profit-sharing opportunities to retain senior talent. There are also good opportunities for established brokers and private bankers with strong relationships to relocate to the UAE, the report said.

While a significant number of employees in the UAE switched jobs at the beginning of the year, a lack of stability in core markets means that fewer candidates are actively looking for new roles, the consultancy said.

Most roles are replacements, rather than newly created positions.

“Candidates are relocating without jobs; they have to accept a job quickly in order to secure a visa, putting businesses in a position of power,” it added.

UAE Salary Guide 2023 – in pictures

Nearly seven out of 10 (69 per cent) UAE employees are likely to look for a new job in the first six months of 2024, the report said.

Reasons cited include the rising cost of living, lack of employee benefits, uncompetitive pay, poor work-life balance and limited career progression opportunities.

Employees aged between 25 and 34 are among the most likely to leave their roles before the end of the year, Robert Half found.

Meanwhile, four in 10 (41 per cent) employees in the Emirates received a pay increase in the past 12 months, either through an annual increase or a new role.

“Employers are increasing living allowances in some areas but reducing them for new employees,” according to the salary guide.

“While people are receiving increased housing allowances, employers are reducing education and family healthcare allowances.”

Updated: November 08, 2023, 3:28 PM