Digital transformation and growth of SMEs create demand for skilled professionals, finds Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide

Employers respond to skills shortages by providing incentives such as ongoing training, flexible working and the top three roles in demand.

  • Employers respond to skills shortages by providing incentives such as ongoing training and flexible working
  • Robert Half outlines top three roles in demand for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, human resources/administration and legal

21 October 2019, Dubai – Consumer and business confidence is high, while strong economic growth is predicted for the UAE. However, the ongoing digital transformation of organisations and the growth of SMEs in the region mean business leaders could struggle to hit targets amid the global skills shortage. Compared to five years ago, 82% of UAE business leaders find it more challenging to find qualified talent to fill open roles.1 Employers are responding by benchmarking salaries and providing increasingly popular incentives including ongoing professional training and flexible working.

The Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide is the most comprehensive and authoritative resource on starting salaries and recruitment trends in accounting and finance, financial services, information technology, legal, human resources and administration. The Salary Guide enables employers and employees to benchmark starting salaries for a variety of permanent professional roles on a national basis.

Accounting and finance

Multinational corporations are still focused on filling vacancies rather than creating new roles. Yet as capital expenditure returns to budgets in 2020, headcount is expected to increase. SMEs are seeking qualified finance and accounting professionals who have experience in establishing and developing finance processes but are also comfortable adopting advisory roles relating to growth and investment. Demand for financial planning and analysis roles has risen, with 39% of business leaders struggling to find qualified talent.

Top 3 most in-demand roles in accounting and finance for 2020

Job role Predicted starting salaries in 2020
Chief Financial Officer (large company) $228,900 - $450,450
Finance Director (large company) $178,000 - £312,900
Financial Planning and Analyst Director (large company) $154,500 - $217,800

Source: Robert Half UAE

Financial services

When hiring for senior finance roles, businesses are looking for candidates with commercial skills in finance leadership and experience in developed markets. Businesses are also particularly interested in candidates with experience operating as the authorised individual for firms regulated by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) or the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). A number of new roles have emerged in finance due to technological advancements in business processes, including business analysts, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems specialists, risk managers and financial advisers.

Top 3 most in-demand roles in financial services for 2020

Job role Predicted starting salaries in 2020
Chief Risk Officer $294,300 - $490,500
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) $277,900 - $457,800
Head of Compliance $153,700 - $327,000

Source: Robert Half UAE


Data, digital transformation and modernisation are businesses’ top priorities for 2020 as they focus on growing revenue and market share through technology adoption. The UAE technology hiring market is consequently one of the most competitive, due to the digitisation of services and the expansion of the local start-up ecosystem. To help combat the issue, employers are strengthening their appeal to overseas talent by offering relocation assistance and cost-of-living support, as well as constantly benchmarking salaries for fast-changing roles.

Top 3 most in-demand roles in technology for 2020

Job role Predicted starting salaries in 2020
Chief Digital Officer $170,800 - $261,600
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) $155,300 - $277,900
Project/Programme Manager $91,600 - $138,100

Source: Robert Half UAE

Human resources and administration 

Talent management and acquisition roles have increased within large multinational organisations as they compete more aggressively for top performing executives. The growth of start-ups continues to grow within the UAE and executive assistants and office managers find themselves in increasingly high demand. HR teams across the board are considered integral to the process of digital transformation, and 25% of CFOs believe that competition for HR and administration professionals with soft skills in change management will rise over the next three years.

Top 3 most in-demand roles in human resources and administration for 2020

Job role Predicted starting salaries in 2020
Head of Recruitment $126,500 - $147,100
HR Manager/HR Business Partner $65,400 - $98,000
Personal Assistant $49,000 - $65,400

Source: Robert Half UAE


With the UAE legal departments adapting to the changes of financial regulations, FinTech and dispute regulations, businesses are seeing the value of LLB and LLM-degree qualified in-house professionals. Bilingual candidates with more than 5 years’ experience are in-high demand, especially if they showcase their soft skills of effective communication, logical reasoning, and high personal integrity.

Top 3 most in-demand roles in legal for 2020

Job role Predicted salaries starting in 2020
Head of Legal $260,000 - $425,000
Senior Legal Counsel $163,500 - $220,500
Legal Associate $80,500 - $175,000

Source: Robert Half UAE

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director at Robert Half UAE, commented: “A recent series of new government initiatives will increase the appeal of the UAE for expats, expanding the pool of experienced candidates in the region. Among the business leaders that we speak to, optimism is high for the year to come with major events like Dubai Expo 2020 helping to stimulate new business growth. Yet economic success and confidence create the perfect conditions for skills shortages and competition for the best employees. 

“Employers need to consider the broader remuneration packages they offer to their chosen candidates, who increasingly see perks like flexible working and extended annual leave as must-haves, not just nice-to-haves. Our research finds that one in five businesses don’t think they offer enough unique perks and benefits compared with competitors - and rightly believe this is putting them at a disadvantage.”

Notes to editors
1The annual study was developed by Robert Half UAE and is conducted by an independent research firm. The study is based on more than 200 interviews with hiring managers from companies across the UAE, with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location.

About the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide
Since 1950, Robert Half has produced Salary Guides to offer business owners, hiring managers and professionals information on prevailing starting salaries and insight into the latest employment trends. Companies consult the annual Salary Guide to determine appropriate remuneration for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal, human resources and business support professionals at all levels.

The starting salary figures are national averages represented in US dollars (US$) and are based on a number of sources, most notably thousands of placements and negotiations managed each year by Robert Half's recruitment consultants.

Bonuses and other forms of remuneration, such as pension scheme and long-term incentives, are not taken into account. This is because professionals joining a company may enter at a variety of experience levels and we report salaries in ranges. The ranges represent averages and will vary by industry and hard-to-fill skill sets.

Download the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide

About Robert Half
Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal, human resources and business support professionals. For more than 20 years, Robert Half has been named to FORTUNE® magazine’s list of “Most Admired Companies” and offers workplace and job seeker resources at