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Middle East – Oil and Gas job market striving

27 November 2012

The Middle Eastern oil and gas job market continues to enjoy strong grow through the second half of 2012 despite political uncertainty around the region and economic stagnation around the world, according to the specialist website ArabianOilandGas.com.

“The GCC has seen a major increase in the levels of hires by as much as 25% as their overall outlook in the second half has been ‘optimistic’ as compared to ‘cautious’ in 2010 and 2011,” says Raj Sharma, regional director for Hays Oil & Gas.

Steady production growth of approximately 10%-15% and stable prices have generated higher revenues leading to increased demand for GCC country nationals while the need for expat hires has also remained strong. This is “welcome news and a positive indication of recruitment activity for the remainder of the year” according Matt Underhill, managing director of Hays Oil & Gas.

The increase in job postings throughout the region has also led to more competitive offers between oil and gas companies. The survey conducted by OilCareers.com and Air Energi, found that contract and permanent salary pay rates are projected to increase by 31% and 30% respectively.

“There are always candidates in the market but tempting the specialists away from their current company is difficult as their employer will fight to keep them, knowing how hard they are to replace,” says Nick Beaumont, Oil & Gas team leader of Randstad Middle East based in Dubai.

“Your typical salaries are $5,000 higher than the last couple of years” says Beaumont. Likewise, in-demand roles have seen increases from 10%-20% as businesses pay to attract the talent to positions that are not always in the most desirable of places.

Retention policies have also changed in favour of employees in response to the competitive offers made from hirers. “For nationals there have been as much as 20%-30% increases in base salaries,” says Sharma. “The increases were to counter losing staff to other non-oil/gas sectors such as public and federal/governmental departments who were paying more.”

According to Sharma, expats have not seen an equitable base salary increase. Instead, they are being offered more material changes including education assistance for eligible dependants, annual leave and some have seen their end of service benefits paid annually and not at the end of service.

Although annual bonuses have previously been discretionary, Sharma forecasts that “candidates could factor in 1 to 3 months base salary as an added signing-on incentive when making their salary projections.”

The study found that higher revenue generated from strong prices and increased production has led to more hires across the board. According to Sharma; National Oil Companies (NOCs) throughout the region have also been increasing their employment offers to include signing-on bonuses paid after six months of service, upgrades from economy to business class for family air tickets, interest free car loans and fixed term contracts of three and four years which allow greater flexibility to offer packages outside of standard pay policy.

Offers between different companies are relatively similar; the challenge is that visa application processes differ substantially from country to country. NOCs sometimes lose candidates because of delays.

“My personal experience over the last two years has been that finding the candidates is not the issue compared to the time taken to eventually get those selected on board,” says Sharma.

For Beaumont, one of the largest challenges is finding engineering offshore specialists, “there are plenty of candidates that have an engineering skill set on their CV, but they haven’t been given exposure to the specialist area that clients require them to work in,” he says. Despite the challenge in finding the suitable candidates for the job, the Middle East is still one of the most attractive regions for hires in the sector.

Although countries such as Brazil and Australia have been receiving a lot of attention, the Middle East is still a strong player offering some of the most competitive packages in the industry. “I would say that with the packages that are on offer this is one of the best regions to be seeking employment in at the moment,” says Beaumont.

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