Teachers and marketing professionals saw the largest fall in demand, while hiring of medical staff increased. One in four candidates willing to accept lower salary than in previous job.
Hiring activity by employers in the UAE plunged 50% due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but has partly recovered following the recent easing of the lockdown, according to the latest research by GulfTalent.
The findings were based on an analysis of recruitment activity on GulfTalent.com website during the period from January till 15 June, 2020.
The data indicate that, following the initial steep decline during March, hiring activity reached its lowest level in early April after introduction of nationwide lockdowns. Activity improved slightly during May, with the exception of the Eid period which historically sees a marked slowdown each year. Since the beginning of June, hiring activity has jumped significantly, though still remains well below the levels seen before the closure of schools in early March.
The UAE’s hiring decline has been comparable with European markets, where the initial fall in hiring volumes ranged from 30% in Germany to 70% in the UK, according to data from Indeed.
Jobs most impacted
The worst affected professions in the UAE have been marketing and teaching, witnessing drops of over 60% in interview invitations in April relative to February. This was followed by sales, customer service and HR, whose demand fell by over 50% during the same period. Admin, operations and general management were next, with drops of around 40% each. IT, Finance and Engineering roles saw the smallest drops in demand, at less than 30%.
Medical professionals were the only segment enjoying an increase in demand compared to the pre-Covid period, receiving 18% more interview invitations in April than in February.
The main driver of reduced hiring has been the contraction of business activity in most sectors due to the pandemic and uncertainty about the future, forcing companies to reduce costs and preserve cash. As a result, many employers have put expansion plans on hold, postponed filling existing vacancies or initiated downsizing.
For companies that do continue to hire, logistical constraints brought about by the pandemic have slowed down the hiring process. This has included the difficulty of arranging face-to-face interviews, inability to target overseas candidates due to border closures as well as the challenge of on-boarding and training any new hires due to remote working arrangements.
Candidate job search activity also fell drastically, with vacancies advertised on GulfTalent during April receiving on average 40% fewer applicants each, compared to vacancies in February. While candidates typically seek new employers as a way of increasing their earnings, in the current crisis many have been holding on to their jobs and only seeking new opportunities if they became unemployed, were put on unpaid leave or found their jobs in danger.
This is reflected in candidates’ salary expectations, which have decreased significantly. To switch to a new employer within the UAE, job applicants on GulfTalent demanded a median salary increase of just 2% in April, down sharply from 14% in February. One in four UAE-based applicants in April were willing to accept a new job that paid less than their previous position.
With unemployment across the world hitting record highs, a large supply of international candidates is likely to be available to UAE employers, both for relocation as well as remote work. This is expected to put further downward pressure on UAE salaries in the second half of the year.