The job market in the Gulf region is improving despite the global economic slowdown and average pay rises have exceeded the increase in the cost of living for the first time, according to a new survey.
Many foreign workers have seen an improvement in their quality of life and saving potential particularly in Dubai and Doha where rents have fallen by over 30%, the survey by GulfTalent.com has found.
The survey, which covered Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, also found that there has also been a gradual move in the region towards greater legal rights and protection for employees. More Middle East countries have made it easier for employees to switch jobs and new labour laws have been passed or are under review with more pro-employee provisions.
However, further job cuts may still be likely in the future but at a slower pace than has been witnessed over the past 12 months. Recruitment has slowed down significantly across the Gulf, most notably in Dubai, in light of its higher exposure to credit financing and global markets. But the survey estimates that half of companies are expected to create new jobs to compensate for the ones being lost.
The biggest average pay rise was recorded in Oman at 8.4% followed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain at around 7%. The UAE and Kuwait stood at the bottom with 5.5% and 4.8%, respectively. According to the survey of employers, the GCC average pay rise in 2010 is expected to be around 6.3%.
In terms of industries, the audit sector had the highest average rise as demand for audit services surged after the high-profile collapse of major global institutions. When it comes to losses around one in ten professionals lost their jobs during 2009 as many companies cut staff due to the economic downturn. This was highest in the UAE where 16% lost jobs and where the real estate sector was particularly affected with 15% of people in the industry losing their job.
The disparity in the economic conditions of the different countries has led to increased mobility across the region, the survey also shows. In particular, a sizeable number of expat professionals have relocated from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia to take up employment opportunities there.
But Dubai still remains the region’s most popular destination for expats and is likely to get back much of the talent it lost as soon as an upturn emerges.