x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Expansion of hiring in region after unrest

Jobs Focus: Sixty-seven per cent of companies in the region say they are hiring for professional and managerial positions despite the waves of turmoil that recently rocked the Middle East.

Companies in the Middle East are hiring again despite the waves of turmoil that recently rocked the region.

Sixty-seven per cent of companies in the region say they are hiring for professional and managerial positions. That figure is a considerable increase from just 34 per cent during the first quarter this year, according to a survey released by Antal, an international recruitment company with an office in Dubai.

"Last quarter was just the start of the crisis," says Nizar Lallani, Antal's chief executive and country manager in the UAE. Companies then "were a bit shocked and very, very cautious. Things are settling now. People are now getting more optimistic," he says.

In the Emirates, 59 per cent of businesses now report that they are looking to fill vacancies at the mid-to-senior level, up from 46 per cent in the last quarter. Over the next three months, 68 per cent of firms also expect to hire additional staff.

Antal's results include only information obtained from private businesses and not government organisations. Its report relies on survey responses from more than 500 businesses in the region.

The recent unrest has certainly affected businesses in the region. In Egypt, many companies shut down for the better part of a month at the peak of anti-government demonstrations this year. That is what happened with Lenovo, the world's third-largest computer manufacturer, which opened a new office in Cairo just weeks before the unrest began.

Yet after starting with just a couple of employees, executives at Lenovo decided to expand the staff with three more recruits, even though many goods had stopped flowing through the country at that time.

"We continued to hire, and offers were being given out during the unrest," said Jack Lee, Lenovo's regional general manager for the Middle East and Africa and the chief operating officer of the company's emerging-markets group.

"I was challenged in that [others at the company] said: 'Hey Jack, with the unrest, should we put on a hiring freeze?' But we went ahead," Mr Lee says. "If you have confidence in the market, why would you stop hiring? Egypt is so strategically huge and important."

Today, 67 per cent of businesses in Egypt say they plan to fill open positions for managers and professionals in the next three months, according to Antal's report. That demand is greater than among businesses that say they will be hiring in more developed economies such as the UK (64 per cent), the US (52 per cent) and Germany (28 per cent).

In this part of the world, the UAE ranks highest among companies that plan to hire for professional and managerial positions in the third quarter. And among countries surveyed globally, the Emirates is behind only five other countries - the Philippines, India, China, Brazil and Slovakia.

Not everyone has been hiring. Slightly more than 10 per cent of companies in the Emirates expect to lay off employees in the next three months, which is up 6 percentage points from the last quarter. Still, this figure falls in line with a general trend for the Middle East, as well as the Gulf, according to Antal's report.

nparmar@thenational.ae