More than one in 10 people think that plenty of jobs are available in Dubai. The general optimism about the job market is reflected in increased activity for staffing firms, and experts predict more improvements in the market to come, Uta Harnischfeger writes Adecco, a global staffing firm, offers its phone-centre callers four choices: "Press 1 for banking and finance; 2 for IT and telecoms; 3 for engineering, oil and gas; and 4 for retail."
These days most callers are pressing 3, says Luc Bachelerie, the regional managing director of Adecco. "There are still lots of energy projects out there and the UAE is heavily investing," Mr Bachelerie says. "With the stabilising oil price, the oil and gas sectors are still recruiting lots of specialised engineers." Experts agree that most of the hiring in the next six months will be in companies involved in infrastructure projects (including construction in Abu Dhabi and roads, airport and Metro work in Dubai), Government-related work, the energy sector, aerospace, IT and health care.
"The phones are ringing much more now," says John Macdonald, the Middle East managing director at ORC Worldwide, which consults on human resource issues. "Companies that are going to recover first and fastest are those related to oil; more specifically the firms downstream from oil." In more general terms, a growing number of people are looking to switch to more reliable employers, Mr Bachelerie notes. Until a few months ago, few would have considered the luxury of switching jobs. The fact that some are doing so reflects an improving job landscape.
"There were three phases," he says. "During the boom people would jump from one job to another for Dh500. During the crisis those who stayed stuck to their chairs. And now, people are switching for a better salary, but mainly for the better name." More than one in 10 people in the UAE now think that plenty of jobs are available in Dubai, a September survey by the recruitment site bayt.com shows. That compares with three in 100 who felt that way in March.
Bayt.com says it has experienced rising recruitment levels on its site in the past two months, with much of the additional employment coming from the government sector. "The uptick in global economic markets - has already been evidenced in rising recruitment levels on our jobsite in the past 2 months," says Amer Zureikat, the regional manager at bayt.com. "Recruitment at government agencies has also picked up, which is always a great sign for the rest of the economy and really serves to boost consumer confidence while encouraging spending and investment."
Looking even further ahead, 40 per cent of UAE participants in the survey say they are optimistic about the employment market in the year to come. The regional average is 30 per cent. In addition, larger international companies already operating out of Dubai are now looking to spread their operations into neighbouring emerging markets such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Companies may agree to spend budget funds that were not allocated because they did not feel comfortable about the future.
"Come January we will see a lot more optimism," says Magdy el Zein, a managing director at the executive search firm Boyden. "We will see the drive to hire to put the business plans in positions and we will see the people hired to do the specific jobs by the end of the second quarter." "We expect hiring activity to rise by 30 per cent across the Gulf through 2009," Mr el Zein adds. "In the UAE, we will see similar kind of recovery ratio."
Executive search experts are also fairly bullish on the transport and logistics sector. One recruitment specialist identifies Etihad Airways, the biggest airline in the Middle East by revenue, as a growing business that was in search of talent. The specialist also points to Mubadala, the investment vehicle of the Abu Dhabi Government, which is investing heavily in aerospace research and development, as well as manufacturing.
Corporations are also looking at outsourcing information-technology services and improving their IT infrastructure. "A lot of companies are starting to look to outsource their IT for better cost monitoring and efficiencies," says Mr Bachelerie. "Many of them have grown really fast in recent years and the [economic] crisis has exposed some inhouse IT issues they are now trying to solve." If the world economy continues to improve, Adecco customers may once again be pressing all the buttons, from 1 through 4, and the phones of Mr Bachelerie and Mr Macdonald could be ringing off the hook.