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There is positive news for employees and jobseekers in the UAE in 2024, with salaries expected to rise by an average of 4 per cent to 7 per cent amid a strong jobs market and demand for talent that will combine to drive up wages, according to recruitment specialists.
The UAE’s recruitment market has undergone several positive shifts over the past 12 months, reflecting the Emirate's continuing commitment to economic diversification and technological innovation, Cooper Fitch says in its UAE Salary Guide 2024 report.
“A larger proportion of UAE-based organisations grew their headcount in 2023 than in 2022, and more than half of this year’s respondents intend to increase remuneration in 2024,” says Trefor Murphy, founder and chief executive of Cooper Fitch.
“This is positive news for jobseekers in the Emirates, as greater demand for talent typically results in higher salaries.”
The UAE jobs market has made a strong recovery from the coronavirus-induced slowdown, driven by the government’s fiscal measures over the past few years.
The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, has undertaken several economic, legal and social reforms to strengthen its business environment, increase foreign direct investment, attract skilled workers with new visas and provide incentives to companies to set up or expand their operations.
It has also introduced an unemployment insurance programme, which came into effect last January.
The Emirates has shifted to an employers’ market, as more people move to the UAE because of economic headwinds in other countries, recruitment consultancy Robert Half says in its 2024 Salary Guide report.
However, the influx of talent and greater competition for roles means candidates are willing to accept lower salaries to kick-start their careers in the UAE, which brings down the overall market rate and restricts wage growth, Robert Half says.
Earlier this month, a report by global HR platform Deel found that the UAE is the world's most popular country for international talent seeking employment visas.
“The UAE’s commitment to talent, innovation and a dynamic business environment is clearly resonating with international professionals and solidifying its position as a top hiring destination,” said Tarek Salam, head of expansion at Deel, which gathered data from 300,000 work contracts across 160 countries for the report.
“The UAE's diverse and multicultural workforce is its greatest asset. By attracting and retaining international talent, the country is positioning itself for continued economic growth and success in the global marketplace.”
About three quarters, or 73 per cent of candidates, plan to remain in the UAE for at least five years, citing career opportunities, safety and living conditions as their main priorities, according to the Michael Page 2024 Salary Guide.
Salary remains the largest driver for a job move in the UAE, showing that compensation is still vital when attracting top talent, the report says.
“The UAE’s attractiveness as a place to live and work continued to play an essential role in attracting and retaining high-quality candidates from abroad,” Jon Ede, regional director for the UAE at the PageGroup, says in the report.
As the demand for talent in the UAE continues to accelerate, we look at the salary and employment outlook for 2024. Take a look at our guides below for a detailed look at salaries in your industry.
Will salaries increase in 2024?
Salaries are expected to increase by an average of 4 per cent to 7 per cent in 2024, recruitment specialists say.
However, they point out that a salary rise is not guaranteed for all employees in the UAE, as it also depends on their sector, as well as their performance and employers’ budget.
Employees who have contributed to a company’s revenue growth or an increased level of productivity of a business are likely to receive an increase in salary levels, says Shiraz Sethi, regional head of employment at law company Dentons.
“Essentially, this could be applicable to employees who are constantly showing outstanding performance and are exceeding the company’s expectations,” he says.
“Employees who receive outstanding results in their performance reviews may also be in a better position to negotiate a salary increase based on merit.”
Most employees are expecting a rise of about 3 per cent to 6 per cent at the top end, according to David Mackenzie, group managing director of recruitment specialist Mackenzie Jones.
However, the average raise could reach as high as 7 per cent, says Nevin Lewis, chief executive and principal consultant at Black & Grey HR.
“Lately, we’ve noticed salaries climbing, especially in tech, finance, real estate and construction, and renewables,” he says.
“[Recently], we helped a senior marketeer land a leadership role in Dubai with a salary that’s 10 per cent higher than what we saw last year for a similar role.”
During the pandemic, many employees cited a better work-life balance as their main reason for switching jobs, according to the Michael Page salary guide.
However, this has declined compared to previous years, with salary returning as the main driving force for candidates to switch roles, it adds.
“This is an unsurprising shift, given the economic changes we face as the cost of living increases.”
Are companies planning to pay annual bonuses in 2024?
Up to 35 per cent of companies plan to reward their employees with at least a one-month bonus this year, according to a study that Cooper Fitch conducted for its annual salary guide.
About 17 per cent of respondents plan to pay a two-month bonus to employees, while 12 per cent will opt for three months, the study found.
“Employees working for 2 per cent of this year’s respondents – spanning the fields of accounting, chemicals, consumer goods, and hospital and health care – can look forward to bonuses amounting to a generous six months’ basic salary,” Cooper Fitch says.
Meanwhile, of the 29 per cent of companies that do not intend to pay bonuses, the highest proportion operate in sectors such as financial services, consulting and technology, it adds.
“In such a competitive job market, firms that do not offer bonuses or increased salaries may need to identify other non-financial benefits – such as remote working, training and development, or additional annual leave – to attract and retain top talent,” the recruitment specialist says.
What benefits can employees and jobseekers expect in 2024?
There has been a rise in negotiations around additional benefits, which could include family benefits, dental insurance, school allowances, work flexibility, remote working and company incentives, according to Myra Bennett, principal recruitment consultant at Dubai-based consultancy Genie Recruitment.
Recognising and rewarding employees’ contributions improves morale and motivation and could include performance-based bonuses, one-off bonuses, vouchers or even additional time off, Ms Bennett says.
Share options, particularly in start-ups, are an attractive benefit that allows employees an opportunity to share in the success of a company. This not only aligns their interests with the organisation but also serves as a valuable long-term incentive.
“Company incentives and perks such as annual trips and challenge-based rewards can contribute to a positive work culture and create a sense of inclusion among employees,” Ms Bennett says.
“The promotion of employee well-being through wellness programmes is gaining popularity. It can include initiatives such as yoga, meditation and Pilates, mental health resources, and stress management activities.”
Promotions and training opportunities are also crucial for employee growth and development.
Employees often seek a clear path for career advancement and appreciate organisations that invest in their professional progress through promotions and relevant training programmes, according to Ms Bennett.
“While high-level roles’ base pay has not seen an increase, they are being offered more elaborate benefits packages in the hope of attracting and encouraging longevity. For example, we placed a role which offered a C-suite candidate Dh500,000 towards a property,” says Zahra Clark, head of Mena operations at Tiger Recruitment.
“In addition, companies are offering candidates large signing bonuses, equity or tiered commissions based on the organisation’s performance. Base-level staff are commonly offered top medical cover, dentistry and a flight home to see family, but we are seeing fewer schooling packages.”
Jack Khabbaz, managing partner and chief executive for Cooper Fitch’s public sector advisory agrees.
“While salaries continue to play a crucial role in talent retention, factors beyond fixed remuneration – such as annual bonuses and the ability to work remotely – are playing an increasingly important role in the UAE’s job market.”
UAE Salary Guide 2024
Check out our detailed salary guides below for a snapshot of how much you can expect to be paid in your sector in 2024.
Banking, finance and advisory
Salaries will remain relatively flat in the finance sector this year, but there is increased demand for middle management staff and analysts, according to the Robert Half salary guide.
More businesses are also offering profit-sharing opportunities, it adds.
HR, secretarial and office support
There has been a steep rise in compensation and benefits in the HR, secretarial and office support sectors, Robert Half says.
“While the package is important, HR candidates are more interested in company culture and building a long-term career than candidates in other sectors,” it adds.
Salaries for private practice lawyers remain high, but those fluent in both Arabic and English will be able to command the best remuneration packages, according to Robert Half.
Real estate, property and construction
Over the past two years, there has been significant and sustained demand for development professionals at various levels, spanning from junior to executive positions, according to Michael Page.
Sales and marketing
Sales professionals in the business-to-business sector who have niche expertise across industries are in high demand in the UAE, the Michael Page report says.
In the business-to-consumer sector, there is an increased focus on identifying talent with strong capabilities in developing products and brand strategies, while the need for professionals with existing in-depth consumer and market understanding is critical, it adds.
Competition is high in the shipping and logistics sector, as organisations focus on enhancing customer service, according to Michael Page.
“The majority of organisations across industries are focusing on hiring ERP [enterprise resource planning] super users for junior and mid-level hiring,” it adds.
Technology, telecoms and digital
The sector has seen less movement in salaries over the past 12 months – a trend that is expected to continue into 2024, Robert Half says.
However, it adds that there is significant demand for project managers and senior leaders who can set up offices as more businesses move into the region.
Engineering and manufacturing
Automation, robotics and new technologies are becoming increasingly important in the engineering and manufacturing sector, according to Michael Page.
“Experience with quality management systems and regulatory compliance are also becoming more and more valuable to the value chain … employers are looking for talents with the expertise of quality control methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing,” the report says.
Health care and life sciences
The UAE's rapid adoption of healthcare technologies means there is a high demand for skilled professionals with experience in telemedicine, electronic health records, and health data analytics, Michael Page says.