Why the UAE has become the go-to place for global talent

Employers must offer fair salaries and hire the right person for the job to retain them for longer

Starting salaries in the UAE have increased by an average of 2 per cent over the past 12 months, according to Robert Half. Antonie Robertson / The National
Powered by automated translation

The UAE is a wonderful place to live. Year-round sunshine, luxury lifestyles and a rich tapestry of cultures are just a few of the reasons you might want to move here. In Dubai alone, for example, 86,607 people moved to the city in the 12 months to June.

As the cost of living continues to rise in the US and the UK, and recession looms for many countries, the UAE has become the go-to place for many people looking to maintain or enhance their quality of life.

With the dirham pegged to the US dollar, the UAE has been experiencing its own inflationary issues.

Inflation in the Emirates was 4.8 per cent last year and is projected at 3.1 per cent and 2.6 per cent in 2023 and 2024, respectively, according to the UAE Central Bank. That compares with a global inflation rate of 8.7 per cent last year.

Comparably, however, the UAE still feels like a better option for many employees.

We are seeing many candidates arriving without jobs, hoping that they will be able to find an appropriate role once they are on UAE soil.

Because of this, they may be willing to accept roles below the market rate to secure a visa for themselves and their family, knowing that once they have their visa, new opportunities will probably arise.

This has a potential knock-on effect for candidates already in the Emirates, or those taking a more measured approach to relocation.

As these new candidates need a job to secure a visa, employers are likely to get more for less, undercutting the market.

This is great news for employers but bad news for the 69 per cent of employees who are planning to look for a new job before the end of the first half of 2024.

Of those who will look for a new job in 2024, the motivation for about half (46 per cent) is to earn more money.

While employers may be able to secure talent at lower rates, employees are unlikely to be able to secure the salary increases they need.

Some of the stats behind the UAE's hiring boom

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, FEB 24, 2016. Jason Leavy, MD of Edelman Dabo. Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Frank Kane /Section: BZ) Job ID: 27616 *** Local Caption ***  RM_20160224_JASONLEAVY_004.JPG

Does hiring for less hinder your business?

Many of the candidates who are coming over without jobs are perfectly capable – even talented.

Employers might be hiring for less but that does not necessarily mean they are getting less.

However, there is a disadvantage to low-balling your candidates; it does not set you up to retain them, which causes more hassle later on.

While a candidate may accept a role offered at a lower salary, it is more probable that they only accept to secure the visa, and then start looking for new, better-paying roles almost straight away.

Offering fair salaries and making sure you are hiring the right person for the job and your company means you will be able to keep them in your organisation for longer, saving time and money.

What should you be paying?

Our 2024 Salary Guide studied the starting salaries for more than 100 professional services jobs across the finance and accounting, financial services, IT and technology, human resource and legal sectors.

Over the past 12 months, starting salaries have increased by an average of 2 per cent.

While salaries for some roles are stable – especially those where the supply of candidates meets the demand – others have seen sizeable increases.

UAE Salary Guide 2023 - in pictures

It is important to think about the whole picture, including the cost of living and your company’s aspirations for the future.

If employers want to retain staff, they need to think about their satisfaction and morale.

Does the package on offer allow them to enjoy Dubai's delights in their spare time? Can they support their families? Will they feel valued by your organisation?

These are all elements that need to be considered. What candidates are willing to accept when they are without a role is rarely enough if you are looking for a long-term hire.

Gareth El Mettouri is associate director for the Middle East at Robert Half

Updated: November 10, 2023, 5:00 AM