Dubai white-collar jobs down 17 pct in 2009: poll

Reuters(UK), 23 February 2010

DUBAI - Dubai lost 17 percent of its professional workforce in 2009, with western foreign nationals hit the hardest, according to recruitment agency GulfTalent.

The Gulf Arab emirate, famous for its artificial, palm-shaped islands and glitzy lifestyle, has been rocked by a debt crisis that came on the heels of a property downturn.

"One of the biggest developments of 2009 has been a change in the fortunes of Dubai, from the fastest-growing hub in the region, sucking in much of the expatriate talent, to the city experiencing the region's most severe downturn," online recruiter GulfTalent said.

"Across the region, redundancies appear to have disproportionately hit senior executives and western nationals."

Despite Dubai's woes, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remained the most attractive market in the region for expatriate professionals, with 74 percent of people surveyed by GulfTalent saying they wished to stay there.

As a whole, the country's professional workforce fell 16 percent, the survey showed. Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Bahraini capital Manama followed, shedding 14.4 percent and 12.8 percent of their workforces.

Salary growth also slowed in the region, with the average pay increase at 6.2 percent compared with 11.4 percent in 2008.

GulfTalent saw little change in 2010, predicting growth of 6.3 percent.

In 2009, the UAE's average pay rise was 5.5 percent, down from 13.6 percent the previous year. In contrast, Oman saw an 8.4 percent rise, while Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia posted 7 percent increases.

The GulfTalent report was based on an online survey of 24,000 professional employees at the region's 3,000 largest corporations as well as a poll of 900 human resources managers and other interviews and reviews.