2022 Outlook: What is on the cards for Dubai?

By Gareth El Mettouri on 12th January 2022

After the UAE economy contracted by 6.2 per cent in 2020 (and possibly even as much as 10.9 per cent in Dubai), there is a long way to go to get back to where we were. Luckily, after a better 2021, the IMF expects non-oil GDP to increase by 3 per cent in 2022.

With Expo 2020 set to continue until the end of March, bringing a wide range of visitors and business leaders to Dubai, the impact on the hospitality and aviation industries, which were badly affected by pandemic restrictions, has been significant.

Not only this, as the Expo 2020 site will be transformed into District 2020, which will provide a human-first sustainable city, offering an attractive location for the ever-increasingly number of tech entrepreneurs in the area. As Dubai continues to grow as a tech hub, it will thrive – heightening demand for professional services talent.

Thinks are certainly looking up in the UAE, but what does that mean for recruitment?

A booming job market

An economic recovery means business growth, and in most cases, and to achieve that hiring new talent is essential. With its attractive offer for tech entrepreneurs, Dubai is also seeing an influx of small businesses and start-ups, which need the best talent across the finance, tech, legal and HR sectors to thrive.

We’ve hit the ground running as we enter 2022, with an abundance of available roles, and we’re expecting that trend to continue throughout the year as the world opens up and we return to a more normal way of living.

A six-month delay

While companies’ appetites for new hires continue to increase, demand is outstripping the supply of available talent – an issue we’re seeing around the world. According to our own recent research, more than a third of employees will look for a new role in the first six months of this year, but businesses should prepare for six-delay on getting the right talent into the business.

We’re finding that many candidates are reticent to move on, as in many cases – particularly in the finance sector – they are expecting bonuses at the end of March. After that point, candidates may jump at the chance to move – but business leaders will still have to contend with notice periods of three months.

Although there could be a delay, we recommend that businesses identify their requirements and start their search as early as possible. Early conversations will be the key to securing the best talent, even if you have to wait a little while for them to join the company.

Limited access to Expat talent

Due to pandemic restrictions, many expats were forced to head home from Dubai and the wider UAE. While the situation remains so unstable in Europe – the key market for expat talent here – we’re finding that many expats are uncomfortable will the idea of making a move, especially if they we burned before.

On the other side of the coin, with many European countries once again tightening restrictions to protect their population and health services from the Omicron variant, many employees are becoming frustrated. Dubai has managed the pandemic extremely well, only locking down for a short period of time early on in the pandemic. For those itching to get on with their lives, Dubai looks like the a utopia – although this is more true for younger, entry-level candidates, and there is still a lack of seniority available in the market.

Continued hybrid and remote working

Many businesses in the UAE are keen to return to normality, with many expecting their staff to be in the office five days a week – but candidates’ expectations have changed throughout the pandemic.

With people around the world showing that office-based work can be just as successfully and efficiently completed from home, many of the candidates we speak to are seeking long-term flexibility, and they are unwilling to compromise.

Many multinationals are offering some remote or hybrid working options, allowing their UAE locations parity with their employees elsewhere, but local companies are resisting, which could impact their access to the best talent in the year ahead.

Rapidly increasing pay

Remuneration levels been relatively stable in the UAE of the past year, but mirroring themes in the UK and wider Europe, we’re expecting salaries to rise rapidly over the next six months. As there is such a lack of candidates, particularly at senior levels, companies should be prepared compete.

While benefits and additional opportunities are helpful tools for separating one business from another, but these are no substitute for the right salary. To find out the going rate for roles in your sector, check out our 2022 Salary Guide.

A year of opportunity?

While the economy looks set for a strong year, it could take a few months for the hiring market to find its stride. From April onwards, we’re expecting a mass movement of employees – Dubai’s own ‘Great Resignation’ – as candidates move after they receive expected bonuses.

Despite movement in the market, business leaders should prepare for stiff competition. Our sister offices around the world are reporting that candidates often have multiple offers on the table – and small things can often tip the balance, which means that employers will need to consider their offering in all areas if they are going to success in 2022.

Read the most recent Outlook for 2022 covering H2 and beyond.  

Interested in working with us? Simply reach out to one of our consultants on LinkedIn or fill in the contact form here, and we’ll get back to you.

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