Expat job seekers may shy away from Gulf-recruiter

Reuters, 7 February 2011

* Regional unrest deters Western professionals

* Abu Dhabi lures talent from Dubai

DUBAI - Political unrest in Egypt and Tunisia may discourage Western job seekers from moving to the Gulf region as Arab governments focus more on youth unemployment, a recruitment agency report showed.

Upheaval in Egypt and how the recent mass protests were displayed in the media across the world "may deter some Western professionals from relocating to the Gulf", online recruiter GulfTalent said in a report.

The report is based on a survey of 32,000 professionals and 1,400 companies from the six Gulf Arab countries. A large population of expatriates from Asia and Western countries such as Britain, live and work in the Gulf.

An uprising in Egypt which started two weeks ago has paralysed the country, as protesters demand an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-old presidency.

Events in Tunisia have also drawn attention to rising food prices and the challenges of youth unemployment, according to the report.

"Employers in the Gulf are likely to face tougher workforce nationalisation targets in 2011, as governments accelerate existing efforts to create jobs for their nationals," GulfTalent said in the report.

Gulf states have 'nationalisation' schemes aimed at pushing their workers into the private sector which involve quotas as well as tax incentives for private companies to hire locals.

However, Arab professionals from regional hotspots may flock to the more stable Gulf Arab countries for jobs, it added.

UAE GETS LOW PAY RISE, QATAR HIGHEST

The survey that reviewed labour market trends showed the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain having the lowest pay rises in 2010 at 5.2 and 4.9 percent, respectively. Qatar had the highest pay rise at 6.9 percent.

More than half of the professionals in the Gulf region did not get a pay increase in 2010. An estimated 55 percent did not get a salary rise, the survey showed.

Dubai, famous for its artificial, palm-shaped islands and glitzy lifestyle, has been rocked by the global financial crisis. It saw employers across the region tapping into its talent pool.

Five percent of Dubai residents are now commuting daily to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, which was less hit by the debt crisis, a five-fold increase since 2008.

But the UAE will see a 6.3 percent rise in private sector salaries this year, according to the report's forecast.

In Qatar, job opportunities have doubled since 2008, as the tiny Gulf Arab country accounts for 16 percent of job vacancies in the region in 2010.

"The trend has been driven by fast-rising salaries, falling cost of living, growing employment opportunities and an improving international brand," said the report.

Qatar won a bid to host the 2022 Football World Cup in December, a decision that is expected to boost construction activity, other businesses and job opportunities.