x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Summer lull is forecast for hiring

Improvement is expected to resume once the decision-makers return from holidays.

A summer slowdown is expected to stall a steady recovery in the jobs market as UAE companies delay hiring until September. Further aggravating the recruitment dip, the absence of company decision-makers such as chief executives and human resource managers is expected to protract those hiring processes already under way.

But the recruiters expect a pick-up in hiring after the Eid holidays as business activity recovers. "Hiring does have a seasonal component to it and we expect the summer to be quieter than the first and second quarters," said Cliff Single, the commercial manager at the recruitment consultancy BAC Middle East. "The difference from last year is that firms are in contact with candidates and will move ahead with hiring after the summer."

James Mackenzie, a financial services headhunter based at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), is planning to take next month off as the number of investment banks scouting for new executive talent dries up in the summer. Any work required of him will be done in the UK. "The market has been fairly quiet and will be even more dead over the next two months, especially because of Ramadan falling in August," said Mr Mackenzie, the managing director of Mackenzie Executive Search. The holy month is expected to begin about August 11.

There has been a gradual resumption in hiring in the first half of the year as companies look to fill positions cut during the economic downturn or as part of a drive to expand their business. About 21 per cent of the respondents to a survey of UAE companies by Robert Half International planned to hire in the next six months, the recruitment company said last week. Information communications technology and engineering have been among the busiest sectors for recruitment. Demand has been less pronounced in sectors such as human resources and administration, with the construction and property industries the biggest laggards within the jobs market.

Also lagging has been the financial sector as banks remain weighed down by concerns about corporate debts in the UAE and the sovereign debt troubles in the euro zone. The summer lull could add weeks or even months to the period between candidate interviews to a new employee starting work. "The hiring cycle is elongated for the simple reason that the decision makers are away so there's an effect on the number of people appointed for jobs," said Christo Daniels, the managing director of IQ Selection, a recruitment consultancy in Dubai.

But some recruiters are expecting to be busier this summer than they were in the same period last year, when the UAE economy was deep in the global economic slowdown. "Compared to previous years we've seen less of an effect," said James Sayer, a senior manager at Robert Half UAE. "We've seen higher demand for services as companies are looking to improve their infrastructure to be ready for the upturn."

While recruitment is heading up, it is not expected to reach the peaks of two to three years ago when companies added staff as access to credit remained easier amid rapid economic expansion in the country. "We have seen a slight upturn in the second quarter compared to the first quarter, but the caveat to that is there is a fragile mindset that the economy is not yet flying yet," said Mr Daniels.