Economic downturn reduces recruitment activity in the Gulf

July 2009

Investment, Administration and Marketing professionals have been the hardest hit. Infrastructure-related disciplines and Audit professionals see increased demand.

The economic downturn has slowed recruitment activity in the GCC region significantly, with Dubai in particular seeing a fall in the number of vacancies advertised, though still retaining a sizeable share.

More discreet and confidential recruitment methods and a shift to lower cost recruitment channels are also among the main trends highlighted in research carried out by Middle East online recruitment firm, GulfTalent.com.

The research shows that the percentage of Dubai-based vacancies advertised on the firm’s website constituted only 30% of all GCC-based positions advertised in the first half of the year, compared with 43% over the same period in the previous year. Kuwait and Bahrain have also been badly hit.

In contrast, Abu Dhabi has seen its percentage share of job vacancies increase from 14% to 23%, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also seen similar increases in their share of vacancies.




The UAE overall may have seen an increase in the outflow of expatriates, with 26% of all job applications submitted by UAE residents targeting vacancies in other Gulf countries, compared to just 16% the previous year. Despite the increase, the outward mobility of UAE-based expats remains the lowest in the region, with the majority preferring to remain in the country. [See full report pdf]

Winners and Losers

Across the region, the fall in demand has been most acute in investment, administration and marketing functions. According to GulfTalent.com’s findings, demand for investment professionals, including private equity and portfolio management, fell by 48% in the first half of the year against the same period last year. For administration skills, demand fell by 47% while the demand for marketing skills slid by 46%.

But not all roles are suffering from a collapse in demand. Demand for infrastructure-related functions soared by 142%, reflecting massive spending by GCC governments this year on road, railway and airport projects. Demand for audit professionals also increased by 25%.

Demand changes are measured by the relative change in the number of CV searches conducted by employers and recruiters on GulfTalent.com’s online database.

The survey also shows recruitment activity to be increasingly focused on mid level and senior professionals, with less experienced candidates receiving less attention.

Salary Trends

The research reveals that the value of expatriate salaries in the Gulf region has increased sharply in terms of their home currencies. Depending on the country of origin, the appreciation of dollar-pegged regional currencies over the past 12 months has been equivalent to an effective pay rise of between 10 and 20 percent.

The currency appreciation, coupled with low inflation, rising unemployment worldwide and reduced regional competition for talent, has eliminated any upward pressure on salaries, the findings show, suggesting that salaries will likely see little rise over the next 6-12 months.

Despite limited pay increases, some expatriates are seeing their saving potential increase relative to last year. This is particularly the case for professionals on fixed salaries based in Dubai and Doha, where residential rents have fallen by 20 to 40 percent, and for those whose home currencies have fallen most against the US dollar, such as UK and Australian
nationals.

Future Outlook

Quoting forecasts by economists, the study anticipates regional economic growth to return to healthy levels in 2010 and employment activity to pick up as a result. It warns, however, that recruitment will take some time to reach its pre-downturn levels, with the price of crude oil being the key factor determining the speed of regional recovery.

Until then, with the volume of new jobs being created not matching the number of young nationals entering the workforce, companies can expect a tightening of regulations with regard to employment of nationals, the study argues.

GulfTalent.com’s research study was based primarily on an analysis of jobseeker and employer activities conducted on its online recruitment website, including a daily average of around 2,000 new candidate registrations, 10,000 job applications and 3,000 CV searches by employers and recruitment agencies using the website. [See full report pdf]

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