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UAE Labour Market Picks Up, but Salaries Remain Under Pressure going into 2021

Monday, November 16, 2020/ Editor -  

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• Almost 9-out-of-10 employers are worried about retaining talent
• 36% indicate that wage cuts or lack of wage increases, and promotions are a cause for concern among employees
• COVID-19 is re-shaping local employee benefits, examples include reductions in both cost of living and additional allowances such as Education
• Robert Half’s 2021 UAE Salary Guide reveals latest salary, benefit and hiring trends for more than 130 positions
 
Dubai, UAE, 16th November, 2020:  Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialised staffing firm, has announced the launch of its 2021 UAE Salary Guide providing in-depth data-driven insights into recruitment trends across the Emirates. According to the Salary Guide, based on data from the recruitment firm’s latest national survey of wages and benefits, employers are primarily concerned with retaining talent while salaries across the UAE are expected to remain under significant pressure in 2021.
 
Current UAE Salary & Bonus ‘Snapshot’
Consistent with other international markets[1], the impacts of the current pandemic on remuneration packages aren’t uniform across all UAE industries. Even during periods of rising unemployment, Robert Half’s latest data shows that a majority of companies (73%) are offering remuneration packages that meet or exceed pre-pandemic numbers. Almost five-in-ten senior managers surveyed (47%) said salaries have held steady since the spread of COVID-19 began, and nearly 3-in-10 respondents (26%) actually noted an increase in base compensation for key roles spanning Accounting & Finance, Financial Services, Technology and HR/Admin.
 
Bonuses are still being paid this year. A little over half the managers surveyed (52%) are making payments that either meet or exceed their pre-COVID-19 equivalents, whilst 38% are offering less, year-on-year.
 
'Employees are a company’s most valuable asset for navigating both short-term disruption and achieving long-term growth,” said Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director, Robert Half Middle East, in launching the 2021 UAE Salary Guide. “Workers have been stretched to the limit during the pandemic, often putting in longer hours, taking on additional responsibilities, acquiring new skills and using recent months to reassess their career priorities. Professionals are much savvier about the market value of their skills and current salary trends than before. Employers should research compensation trends regularly, be prepared to move quickly and negotiate effectively in order to retain key employees or hire promising talent.”
Evolving Benefits
 
COVID-19 is re-shaping the employee benefits landscape. At the international level, many managers surveyed have incorporated new worker benefits since the start of the pandemic, including, but not limited to:
 
• At-home office equipment allowances
• Mental health resources or assistance
• Wellness programmes
Remote- and Flexible-Working Are growing in demand 
 
Flexible working has been an important consideration for a growing number of employees for some time, which has now been further amplified by COVID-19. Maintaining an appropriate work-life balance has become an important priority as the pandemic continues to evolve, with 71% of managers committed to offering remote work for the foreseeable future. Flexitime policies – i.e. allowing employees to structure their workday or week as they please – are in place amongst 61% of companies, along with working a compressed week (52%) and permanent part-time arrangements (51%) also favoured by the majority of survey respondents. 
 
El Mettouri adds: 'Salary definitely remains an important consideration. But nonmonetary benefits such as enhanced wellness resources, remote- and flexible-working options and achieving a better work-life balance are becoming increasingly important. With current economic volatility likely to continue for some time yet, even the prospect of a salary freeze over coming months can be made more palatable if managers can ensure that nonmonetary benefits are sufficiently tailored to be supportive and beneficial for employees.” 
UAE companies are still hiring
 
UAE employers are recruiting. There is strong demand for new talent, particularly across the Utilities, Distribution, E-commerce, Telecoms, Insurance and Healthcare sectors. HR Consultants, Legal Managers, Finance and Business Analysts as well as Managing Director roles all remain in high demand.  Additionally, there is a clear shift in the skill sets being sought by hiring managers, with an uptick in demand for ‘soft’ skills such as agility, creativity and communication alongside core technical competencies in order for personnel to have the optimal attributes needed to navigate what remains a very challenging business climate. 
 
“Although some sectors clearly had to downsize due to the COVID-19 crisis, many companies showed resilience by adapting quickly to the new business reality,” El Mettouri observes. “The move to working from home, accelerated rates of digital transformation, the development of virtual procedures for recruitment and onboarding, the encouragement of new skills and the emergence of more flexible workforce models have profoundly changed the way companies work, recruit and offer products and services. All of these developments likely foreshadow how we will work in the post-pandemic era. The future of work has not only arrived, it’s here to stay.”
 

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