Jobs boom as UAE and Saudi search for talented professionals

Lawyers and tax experts in demand as Saudi reforms open up opportunities, while luxury stores look for Mandarin and Russian speakers

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Job vacancies have risen sharply this year as the introduction of VAT and Saudi reforms spark the need for talented professionals.

Lawyers and tax experts are in demand across the Middle East, according to the Robert Walters Middle East jobs index.

Across the region, adverts for professional positions rose by 25 per cent between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of this year.

Growth is particularly strong in the public sector, say experts.

“The private sector is less buoyant that it has been over the past few years – senior leadership appointments are addressing organisational transformation; organisational efficiency/ effectiveness; digital/data and so on,” said from Jonathan Holmes, Managing Director, Korn Ferry, which helps organisations select and hire executive-level talent.

“The government sector is relatively robust, and this is especially true for Saudi, where government, quasi-government and the privatisation agenda is driving leadership demand with the obvious caveat that Saudi nationals are the prime choice, unless a national cannot be found.”

Saudi saw the biggest increase, with an 81 per cent rise in advertised roles in the quarter, compared to the same period in 2017, according to Robert Walters.

“This is mainly driven by Vision 2030 of the Saudi government to have more Saudi nationals working and increasing the percentage of female Saudi nationals at the workplace across all industry sectors,” said Jason Grundy, country head at Robert Walters Middle East.


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The demand has been particularly high for female Saudi nationals in sales and finance roles.

“These disciplines were previously male dominated but with the 2030 vision ahead the demand for females is slowly growing,” said Mr Grundy.

The main challenge for employers, both local and international companies, he said, is to hire good quality Saudi talent.

In the UAE the growth was more muted, at a 9 per cent increase year-on-year across accounting and finance, banking and financial services, legal and sales and marketing.

But banking and financial services, as well as accounting and finance, saw particularly strong growth at 32 per cent and 26 per cent growth respectively.

The increase in banking and finance services roles was mainly driven by the impressive financial results of banks, many of which posted double digit growth, while the accounting and finance positions were mainly tax-related.

“Companies in the UAE have been working on post implementation plans of VAT in the first quarter of 2018, creating roles in the public practice firms and in house,” said Mr Grundy.

Growth in sales and marketing roles in the UAE has been stable – and in some cases specific, said the recruiter.

“Luxury brands are selectively hiring as the Dubai Mall expansion continues to develop and we have seen an appetite for Mandarin and Russian speaking staff,” added Mr Grundy.

Robert Walters said it expects growth to continue.

“While the second quarter does contain Ramadan and the Eid holiday, market sentiment is certainly up and positive job numbers from the index suggest a continued growth in the job market [during the period],” said Mr Grundy.