Top Middle East candidates need double-digit salary rises to move jobs in 2020

Companies must pay up to secure the best talent, says recruitment consultancy Michael Page

Dubai - December 13, 2009 - Going to work in the DIFC in Dubai, December 13, 2009. STOCK (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
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Top talent in the Middle East will require "double-digit salary increases" to switch jobs in 2020 with the high demand triggered by key projects linked to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 initiative, a new regional recruitment report found.

The talent squeeze in the kingdom is triggered by high demand for professionals and competition between major projects, according to The 2020 Middle East Salary & Skills Guide from global recruitment consultancy Michael Page, which operates in 36 countries.

“Salary-wise, despite increasing operating costs being a regional concern, the best candidates still require double digit salary increases to move jobs,” Pierre-Emmanuel Dupil, senior managing director, PageGroup Middle East & Africa, said in the report.

Saudi Arabia is implementing a number of measures as part of its economic diversification plans under Vision 2030, which aims to create more jobs for citizens by developing non-oil industries and attracting them to the expatriate-dominated private sector.

While the kingdom was “the steering economic engine” driving recruitment in the Middle East, and hiring picked up “slightly” in the UAE, there was also a rise in new hires across the region owing to a relatively stable oil price, the study found.

“While the hiring activity has been supported by consistent public investments, mainly in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, we also noted positive signs from the private sector in both markets,” the report noted.

These include a growing demand for national candidates in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the public and private sectors, including from multinationals.

The unemployment rate among Saudi citizens dropped to 12 per cent in the third quarter of last year — its lowest levels in more than three years — as the kingdom's non-oil growth picked up. This was down from 12.3 per cent in the previous quarter, according to the General Statistics Authority.

Sector-wise, retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMGC) and luxury saw a pickup in recruitment activity in 2019 in preparation for this year’s Expo 2020 event in Dubai. However, financial services showed signs of a slowdown due to major consolidation in the market.

Classic support roles such as finance, procurement and supply were stable in terms of recruitment activity, with new hires geared towards junior and mid-manager profiles.

Meanwhile, demand for IT talent, especially data and digital experts, increased significantly over the past 12 months — in line with similar hiring increases seen in 2017 and 2018 — as companies sought out new digital avenues to boost revenue streams.

Demand for legal and consultancy candidates rose in 2019, said Michael Page, because of specificities and challenges, while demand also ramped up for property and construction professionals as key projects tied to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 got under way.