x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

More pay on the way for Middle East workers

Consider this an early Christmas gift: salaries in the UAE are expected to rise 5.7 per cent next year, in the second of such surveys looking at the workplace this month.

Employees in faster-growing sectors such as the aviation, pharmaceutical, banking and tourism industries are likely to enjoy the highest bumps. Nicole Hill / The National
Employees in faster-growing sectors such as the aviation, pharmaceutical, banking and tourism industries are likely to enjoy the highest bumps. Nicole Hill / The National

Consider this a holiday gift from your human resources department: salaries next year are set to rise by the highest level since the boom time of 2008.

Wages for workers in the Emirates are projected to increase 5.7 per cent next year, according to data released exclusively to The National by Towers Watson, a human resources consultancy.

"2009 and 2010 were pretty difficult years for the economy. 2011 is when things started to stabilise," said Billy Turriff, the Middle East line of business leader for data, surveys and technology at Towers Watson. "Now, the Middle East seems to be more optimistic."

A separate survey released this month by the consultancy firm Mercer forecast a pay rise for workers next year of 5.5 per cent.

The study from Towers was conducted independently from that one and relied on responses from 171 companies in the Middle East and Africa (Mea), covering a sample size of about 20,000 employees.

Globally, many companies remained "cautiously optimistic", said Mr Turriff, and were unlikely to increase salaries the way they have been growing in the Mea region.

Wages increased 5.5 per cent this year in the Emirates but were outpaced by nearby countries, where spending on infrastructure was much higher. Salaries in Saudi Arabia increased 6.2 per cent, while earnings in Qatar jumped 5.8 per cent.

Egyptians enjoyed the highest salary increase this year from anywhere in the Mea region, with 10 per cent growth, although their starting salaries were much lower than elsewhere in the region.

Yet many workers lament that their salaries have not kept up with their current cost of living.

In the UAE, more than 70 per cent of respondents claim this is an issue, according to a survey released last week by Bayt.com, a job-searching site.

Even worse, experts note, is that not everyone in the UAE should expect to benefit from a pay rise next year.

Employees in faster-growing sectors such as the aviation, pharmaceutical, banking and tourism industries are likely to enjoy the highest bumps.

Last month, the UAE Government announced pay increases for public-sector workers of up to 45 per cent, which is now driving some of the pay rises in the private sector. "Working for government and semi-government entities are still the most lucrative for Emiratis, and private companies are trying to keep up with this pace," said Hamza Zaouali, the managing director for Iris Executives, a headhunting agency in the UAE that focuses solely on Emiratis.

But workers in areas such as retail, insurance and industries with few Emirati employees can expect the lowest salary increases next year, Mr Zaouali said.

Some employees have already considered switching fields to attract a better pay cheque. This month, Bayt.com released another survey that found 34 per cent of professionals in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) were thinking of shifting into the oil and gas industry.

"Oil and gas has been associated with the region for a long time, and even during the financial downturn it was one of the most active in terms of recruitment and growth," said Amer Zureikat, the vice president of sales at Bayt.com.

In all of the most popular industries that employers are considering moving into - including oil and gas, as well as petrochemicals, banking, IT, human resources and manufacturing - money was the top motivational factor driving the decision.

"Today, talent in the market are after an industry that is stable, able to provide good opportunities and offer good salaries and incentives, but at the same time can offer job security, which is why the oil and gas and petrochemicals rank number one in terms of sectors or industries that are the most attractive for job seekers in the Mena region," Mr Zureikat said.

* with additional reporting by Gillian Duncan

nparmar@thenational.ae