UAE jobs and salaries: who is applying and how much should they earn?

Huge demand for jobs from foreign workers as wages remain higher than much of Europe and Asia

A UAE resident is interviewed for a position at the Canada pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site.
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The UAE has long been an attractive proposition for overseas workers because of its lucrative job packages, tax-free salaries and sunny climate.

Now a list released by India’s External Affairs Ministry revealed the Emirates was the leading destination for Indians hunting for jobs abroad, followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US and Oman.

The breakdown of the UAE population offers an insight into the demand for jobs in the country.

According to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre, 9.2 million people live in the UAE, about 89 per cent of whom are foreign citizens.

Indians form the largest foreign community in the UAE, followed by Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, other Asians, Europeans and Africans.

For finance, the majority of my overseas applicants come from India and Pakistan, with quite a few from Egypt and the rest from Europe
Louise Vine, Inspire Selection

Alex Koumi, managing director of Kingston Stanley, a recruitment agency in Dubai, said the majority of the job applicants that come to the company are from GCC countries or elsewhere in Asia.

“In terms of candidates, we see a high number of applications from India, Saudi Arabia, UK, Jordan and Qatar,” he said.

“Skill sets include creative, digital and technology. The industries in which they are applying are completely varied, but pharmaceutical and media agencies are high in demand.”

The agency predominantly places applicants in mid to senior-level roles and salaries vary depending on experience.

What salaries can applicants expect?

For creatives, he said, an art director can expect to earn between Dh18,000 and Dh22,000 per month in the current climate.

At the most senior end of the scale, an executive creative director for an agency can expect to bank Dh40,000 to Dh50,000 per month.

For those looking to work within the digital sector, a social media director could earn between Dh25,000 and Dh30,000 per month, while the head of digital could expect to take home Dh35,000 to Dh40,000.

An IT manager can expect to earn between Dh25,000 and Dh35,000 per month, rising to between Dh45,000 and Dh60,000 for a position as head of IT.

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Louise Vine, managing director for recruitment agency Inspire Selection, said the countries from which applicants apply varies a lot depending on the industry and role.

“For higher education, all our applicants are from the US or UK,” she said.

“For senior construction roles, they mostly come from the UK and Ireland, and some also from Lebanon and Jordan.

“For finance, the majority of my overseas applicants come from India and Pakistan, with quite a few from Egypt and the rest from Europe.”

She said restrictions on travel from the Philippines had “reduced the number of applications” in recent months, but Indian jobseekers were not deterred by the lack of flights to the UAE.

In terms of trends, Kiren Gill, technology recruiter for Inspire Selection, has noted a rise in many lower-level candidates keen to explore the UAE.

Junior to mid-level applicants from India and Pakistan have shown an interest in IT, sales and customer service roles.

“Senior general management candidates are trying to relocate globally, probably because their jobs have been affected by the crisis in their countries,” Ms Gill said.

“Unfortunately, they do not seem to realise that the pandemic has [also] affected us here, and jobs at the top two layers of management level are not widespread at the moment.”

Dubai and Abu Dhabi most desirable cities

In March, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were listed as among the top five most desirable cities to move to for work.

According to a survey by Boston Consulting Group and The Network, Dubai climbed to third place from sixth in 2018, while Abu Dhabi rose to fifth place, behind Berlin.

The findings were based on the feedback of 209,000 people in 190 countries to find the most attractive destinations for foreign workers.

The introduction of the golden visa – a long-term residency initiative that recognises experts in various fields – has also attracted more skilled workers to the UAE.

It allows investors, professionals and others with special talents to acquire long-term residency in the country for themselves and their families.

Recruiters said the programme has resulted in more high-level employees looking for jobs here, especially those from India and Pakistan.

David Mackenzie, managing director of recruitment firm Mackenzie Jones, said he tends to recruit for mid to senior-level roles in the UAE.

For the positions he hires for, there is a demand for Arabic speakers, mainly from the GCC, and Europeans.

“At the moment, we are struggling to find recruitment or talent people,” he said.

“Companies have restructured and are starting to fill roles again, so HR vacancies are in demand.

“We have a lot of roles for legal positions, but trying to find Arabic-speaking legal experts is quite difficult.”

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Updated: August 03, 2021, 8:08 AM