Covid-19 demanded a huge amount from workers throughout the world, particularly of those in the healthcare sector, many of whom faced grave danger. Huge changes were introduced to office life. Almost instantly the physical workplace was replaced with hybrid working, the daily commute with staying home. For many, the very certainty of employment disappeared. Globally, 114 million people lost their jobs.
The UAE is fortunate to be on the road to recovery from these tough times, due to clear leadership and a rebounding economy. And this week, residents saw yet more optimistic signs. According to the Cooper Fitch UAE Salary Guide 2022, which polled more than 600 companies, 35 per cent of businesses plan to increase salaries up to 5 per cent, while 4 per cent of companies will offer employees a raise between 6 to 9 per cent. A further 5 per cent of companies in the UAE will boost wages by 10 per cent or more. This means that roughly 43 per cent of businesses plan wage increases at an average rate of 3 per cent.
In tandem, the number of people predicted to have their salaries frozen next year has dropped significantly. According to a November study by Mercer, only 5 per cent of UAE companies are expected to freeze salaries in 2022, a number far lower than at the beginning of the pandemic.
It is too early to say that wage stability is out of the woods, but positive data on best and worst-case scenarios point to the emergence of a solid recovery. This is down to certainty brought about by a strong pandemic response, the huge commercial benefits of Expo 2020 Dubai and other in-person international events, the resurgence of aviation and the government's wider interest in the workforce and employment issues.
Last month, the government unveiled the biggest tranche of legal reforms in the country's history. Copyright laws were bolstered and investors and entrepreneurs were permitted to establish and own onshore companies in almost all sectors. This was a drop in the ocean of measures to make the country's working environment more dynamic. This week, a separate law will largely eliminate workplace differences between the public and private sector. This comes as part of a wider drive to get more Emiratis in the private sector. It seems to be working. More than 2,000 have done so within three months of the government making it a priority.
Further afield, the best global talent is being encouraged to make the UAE its home with this year's Golden Visa scheme, which grants recipients flexible residency for up to 10 years. People from around the world with experience in a set list of fields, particularly future-focused ones such as AI and programming, can apply.
A strong recovery is the basis for 2022's expected salary rises. But the two are intertwined. As the economy starts to offer workers more, the financial activity key to sustained recovery should gather pace. Going into 2022 and beyond, the ever-diversifying UAE workforce is set to become more resilient, secure and quite possibly better ofs financially.