UAE risks losing competitive edge in global ‘war for talent’

Businesses are boosting their hiring efforts but the raging war for talent means that senior leaders need to reconsider salary and benefit offers to compete at a global level

  • Businesses are stepping up hiring efforts as the regional economy starts to recover
  • However, the average salary increase in the UAE lags behind that across Europe and Australia, affecting the region’s ability to compete for top talent
  • While a warm welcome awaits newcomers to Dubai, benefits like hybrid working are important for attracting new staff

Businesses across United Arab Emirates (UAE) are boosting their hiring efforts, but the raging war for talent across the globe means that senior leaders need to reconsider salary and benefits offers to compete. 

This is according to the 2022 Salary Guide from specialist recruiter Robert Half, which combines hiring and recruitment insights with average starting salaries for roles across the Financial Services, Finance and Accounting, Technology, Legal and HR sectors in the UAE. 

Estimates based on the analysis of salaries for over 150 roles reveal that the average salary increase for professional services roles in the UAE is currently four per cent, in line with the nascent economic recovery. The most significant increases are in the Legal sector, followed by Finance and Accounting, and Technology. 


Average salary increase



Finance and accounting




Financial services


Human resources


Businesses are keen to increase headcounts after drastic cuts at the start of the pandemic, but with leaner business structures and newly digitised environments, the drive for digitally skilled candidates is high. At the same time, companies are also looking for talent with the legal and finance skills they need to grow effectively through the pandemic.

Despite these pay increases, the UAE is still lagging in the global war for talent. Across Europe and Australia, both vital sources of expat talent, the average pay increase is 11 per cent – raising concerns about the region’s area to compete.

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director – Middle East at Robert Half, says: “Businesses in the UAE are in a hiring frenzy as they try to make up for lost time, but unfortunately many are finding it difficult to find the talent they need. Loosening travel restrictions is improving the flow of expat talent into the region, the UAE is not as competitive as it once was.”

With its beautiful sun and great culture, the UAE has a lot to offer candidates, but business leaders can go the extra mile by offering competitive benefits, particularly hybrid working.

In other countries, remote working is now the most common benefit offered by employers – for example, it is now available to employees at more than three-quarters (78%) of companies in the UK . In the UAE, multinationals are happy to facilitate remote working but local SMEs are resisting – which is putting off potential candidates for whom it is a priority perk.

Gareth El Mettouri continued: “Dubai continues to attract skilled workers and entrepreneurial talent thanks to foreigner-friendly initiatives like 100% foreign ownership – and some professionals are even being offered a UAE passport, which is one of the best in the world for mobility. However, businesses still need to make working conditions desirable with additional benefits, flexible working and competitive remuneration.”

Want to find out what you should be paying or the going rate for your role? Robert Half’s 2022 Salary Guide has all the numbers worth knowing, including average starting salaries for more than 100 professional services roles, and industry insights from recruitment experts in the region.