Good news for UAE tech workers - hiring is on the rise

There has been a stable increase in new jobs and salary rises after excessive hiring in 2021 and 2022

There appears to be more tech jobs in the UAE compared with this time last year. Getty Images
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There were many well-documented layoffs and headcount reductions last year by global technology companies.

With many employees affected locally in the Middle East, what will 2024 bring – and can this $5 trillion industry bounce back?

Last year was tough for technology and being a specialist recruiter in this field, I experienced it first-hand.

The first half of 2023 was slower than normal. With many global financial and political challenges, companies were less bullish about expanding than the previous year.

The second half saw more of the same, and it took until the end of the year for confidence to return.

The good news: there are positive changes on the horizon.

Historically, I have always seen an uptake in hiring at the beginning of the year, and the first few weeks of 2024 are no exception.

We already saw signs of recovery towards the end of last year and this has continued.

There seem to be more tech jobs available than this time last year but is the trend here to stay?

I’ve noticed that companies that weren’t expanding a year ago are now much busier with hiring. In other cases, companies that were laying off staff are growing again.

That said, we are not seeing the same level of new roles as during the post-pandemic times.

I would say this is a good thing as it would indicate that companies have learnt their lesson and are being more cautious.

One of the main reasons for so many layoffs last year was excessive hiring in 2021 and 2022.

Stable growth is more sustainable for many reasons. Firstly, it helps to keep salary levels in check.

In a situation where five companies are vying to hire the same candidate, compensation levels are artificially inflated, which is great for the candidate but affects the market in the longer term.

In the UAE, specifically, we are seeing a stable rise in job opportunities as well as salary increases in line with inflation.

We still have substantial growth in commercial and residential construction, leisure and tourism, hospitality, health care, education, and many other sectors.

All of these require large technology investment that feeds the industry, as does the government itself with its many digital transformation and cloud technology projects.

Saudi Arabia, which is a much bigger market, is still growing exponentially with projects in many sectors and it shows no sign of stopping.

UAE salary guide 2024
Candid portrait of Arab businesswoman holding digital tablet at desk. Photo: Getty Images

The level of investment is substantial and, as with the UAE, the kingdom is also investing in the best technology and hiring top talent from all over the world to help fuel its growth.

All markets will have ups and downs, but if you look at how far the GCC has come over the past 20 years, it’s impressive.

There is a bigger focus on training and hiring local talent with nationalisation initiatives, which is great for a country’s future development.

There is also much more international interest in the region. Anyone watching an elite sporting event anywhere in the world is likely to see sponsorship by a regional company such as Emirates, Etisalat or Aramco.

So, it’s clear that the GCC is firmly on the global map, and is here to stay.

Big sports stars have also been coming to this part of the world to compete in globally followed sports such as boxing, football and the UFC.

I foresee continued steady growth throughout the rest of the year, with the biggest demands for jobs coming from IT infrastructure and supporting software, cloud computing, cyber security and artificial intelligence
John Armstrong, founder and managing director, JCA Associates

After 17 years of living in the region, I have noticed that the UAE in particular is now far ahead of the West in many areas, including infrastructure and technology.

I see first-hand how technology makes life easier here, which contributes to how popular the Emirates is as a place to live.

In tech, I foresee continued steady growth throughout the rest of the year, with the biggest demands for jobs coming from IT infrastructure and supporting software, cloud computing, cyber security and artificial intelligence.

In many cases, organisations that have been hit the hardest have not adapted to these technologies and have been left behind.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities ahead of the curve and many tech start-ups are being created – some of which could become the next unicorn.

Companies such as Meta Platforms, Google and Amazon all had humble beginnings and in an ever-evolving sector, there will always be room for the next “tech giant”.

John Armstrong is the founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Updated: February 12, 2024, 8:07 AM