How young jobseekers have flocked to UAE to escape Europe's Covid pandemic slump

Many are willing to take on any role, salaries of Dh10,000 and have discovered that being on the ground brings a far greater chance of finding work

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For Irishman Paul McCoy, 22, living abroad was always the dream.

But late last year, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he lost his job and his plan to pursue work overseas was brought forward.

“When I moved over to Dubai in June I didn’t have a job,” he told The National.

“I tried applying for a few opportunities beforehand but nothing came of it.

“I thought it would be easier to find a job once I landed and was in a position to meet employers face-to-face.”

After going through several interviews and sending off countless applications, a relative contacted him about a work opportunity.

I thought it would be easier to find a job once I landed and was in a position to meet with employers face-to-face
Paul McCoy

Less than two months after arriving in Dubai, Mr McCoy secured a job as a marketing and business development manager for a small financial company his cousin works for.

While on probation, he is renting a flat on a monthly basis but is hoping to secure something more long-term as soon as his full residency visa is issued.

“I always wanted to travel once I graduated from college and, with the Covid-19 restrictions being so strict in Ireland, it was a no-brainer that Dubai was the place to be,” he said.

“The Irish community has been so helpful, for us to be able to settle in so quickly. I had never been to Dubai, so it was all very uncertain and new to me, but very exciting all the same.”

Layoffs of cabin crew by airlines and elimination of some junior office roles has flooded the market for entry-level jobs, making them highly competitive and driving wages down in some cases.

Dearth of candidates in four key sectors

In contrast, recruiters told The National there was a shortage of candidates for roles in manufacturing, logistics, transport and health care in particular.

Nikhil Nanda, operations manager for HR outsourcing agency Innovations Group, said there was a "a dearth of right talent in the market" in those four sectors, which have grown rapidly during the pandemic.

Companies are struggling to find "people to service the continuous business demands", Mr Nanda said.

“Not only [are we seeing applications from] people that have moved here during the pandemic, but also older residents as well are actively applying for jobs in various sectors,” he said.

There is also a trend, he said, for expanding companies to poach more experienced long-time residents, who know the market well, then replace them with more junior new arrivals.

Louise Vine, managing director of Inspire Selection recruitment agency, says a lot more young jobseekers are looking to get their big break in Dubai.

But with relatively high living costs and at times unforeseen expenses, there are considerable financial risks to moving to the Emirates without a job.

And unless they are highly skilled, candidates applying from abroad are rarely selected ahead of jobseekers who are already here.

“We see a lot of applicants in the 25 to 30-years-old age range," she said.

“The difficulty we face with clients is that they always prefer the easy route, to hire a local candidate.

“Hiring someone from thousands of kilometres away does not make sense when there are options available locally.

“Candidates have been locked down in their countries for so long that I don’t blame them for wanting to experience the freedom we have here in the UAE at the moment, however the obstacle is the abundance of local talent.”

In most cases, she said clients would only interview people overseas once the “local market has been exhausted”.

Candidates in industries such as e-commerce and FinTech, where demand outstrips supply, are faring better than others when it comes to applying for jobs from overseas.

In terms of demographics, Ms Vine said, younger people generally tended to make the move abroad.

“At this age, they are able to take more risks as they usually come with less baggage and no children,” she said.

“They also have only a few years’ experience under their belt and are keen to explore the world.

“In terms of tips, I would say remain positive, which can be difficult if you’ve had a couple of rejections, but persistence is key.

“Each employer is probably interviewing between three and seven candidates for the role, so you would be lucky to receive an offer for the first interview you attend.

At the end of the interviews, ask how long it will take to hear back, and ensure you follow up on that date.”

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Dubai move for New York wine expert

On August 20, Gordana Josovic, 50, will relocate from New York to Dubai to start a job as a wine specialist for The Palm Jumeirah hotel resort Atlantis, and its new Royal Residences.

With more than two decades of experience working in hospitality, she said the move was not planned.

“My place of work was closed due to the pandemic, so I wasn’t working,” said Ms Josovic, an American.

“I decided to put a job search on hold, as I was preparing for the master sommelier exam.

“I wasn’t planning on moving, but when I came across the job description it sounded like it was custom-made for me.

“I accepted the offer about five weeks ago. I had three interviews. Initially there were supposed to be a few more, but luckily a few key interviewers were able to join the same meeting.”

Although relocating during a pandemic has called for careful planning, she said after a lot of research and receiving both Covid-19 vaccine doses, she felt prepared for the move.

Originally from Serbia but having lived and worked in the US for the past 24 years, Ms Josovic said her experience helped in securing the role.

“I should be arriving in Dubai on August 20 and I am moving solo,” she said.

“The company is providing accommodation for me and I have never visited Dubai before, so that has taken some stress out of moving.”

Dubai starting salaries now Dh10,000 for many Western expats

Recruiters in Dubai said the number of applications from overseas candidates dropped during the pandemic but had started to pick up again.

Alex Koumi, managing director of recruitment agency Kingston Stanley in Dubai, said people from a variety of age groups moved to the UAE from overseas in 2019 and early 2020.

Since the pandemic began, the demographic of talent looking to relocate has changed, mainly those with good experience and senior managers.

For those making the leap with less work experience, salaries would start at about Dh10,000 ($2,723), depending on the role and sector.

“Obviously, the better qualifications, university grades, languages and personality to develop, the higher the possibility of securing a job,” he said.

Keep all options open. Be flexible on salary and start earning, stay loyal and don’t look for another role for at least 18 months
Alex Koumi, Kingston Stanley

“Keep all options open. Be flexible on salary and start earning, stay loyal and don’t look for another role for at least 18 months.

If a candidate is based here the chance of them securing a role increases dramatically, Mr Koumi said.

“Nine out of 10 times, an individual who is here and can start immediately will supersede someone overseas with at least a month’s notice to work before even moving,” he said.

The Kingston Stanley Salary Survey 2021 said a starting salary for an account executive in a public relations agency was between Dh10,000 and Dh12,000.

Copywriters looking to join a creative agency could expect to take home between Dh13,000 to Dh18,000 and an account executive for a digital agency, between Dh8,000 to Dh12,000.

Digital marketing executives working on the client side of an e-commerce firm could look to secure about Dh12,000 to Dh15,000 in the current climate.

Newcomers working in the sales sector could expect a starting salary of between Dh10,000 to Dh16,000 and a system administrator working in information technology could secure Dh10,000 to Dh20,000, depending on the size of the company.

Updated: August 11, 2021, 12:25 PM