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Middle East - Headcount to rise in 2014

18 March 2014

The year 2014 will be a year of stronger employment growth and higher salary rises, according to a survey by online recruitment firm, GulfTalent. Oman, where employees are expected to enjoy an average pay increase of 8%, leads the field. Saudi Arabia has the second highest rate with a projected average increase of 6.8 %, followed by Qatar at 6.7% and the UAE at 5.9%. Kuwait and Bahrain are forecast to have the region's lowest salary increases - projected at 5.8% and 3.9% respectively. While the salary increases are higher than the previous year, they continue to be below the levels seen before the crisis.

The economies of the Gulf continue to grow at a healthy pace, supported by continued high oil prices and government investments in infrastructure. The region is also gaining international prominence as Qatar and UAE are preparing to host major international events in the next decade. Political tensions across the broader Middle East continue to have an impact on the Gulf, with more people and capital flowing to the relative stability of the Gulf.

The 2014 edition of "Employment and Salary Trends in the Gulf" shows that Saudi Arabia was the leader in job creation in 2013, with 62% of companies increasing their headcount last year. The Kingdom was followed by the UAE and Kuwait.

Broken down into sectors, healthcare topped the table with 80% of companies having created jobs in 2013, driven by heavy government investment in the sector and more countries making health insurance mandatory for employers. According to the survey, telecom and retail sectors competed for second position.

GulfTalent's survey also found that across the Gulf Cooperation Council area (GCC), more companies expect to increase their headcount in 2014 compared with last year. 75% of companies in Qatar will create jobs this year. The positive development is primarily due to the execution of major infrastructure projects gathering momentum, partly in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar is followed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with 63% and 57% of companies in these countries looking to create jobs respectively. Even companies in Bahrain are showing signs of improvement in job creation as the political situation stabilises further: 30% of companies expect to increase their headcount, compared with only 9% in 2013.

Hospitality and retail will dominate job growth in 2014. 61% of companies in the hospitality sector are planning to increase their headcount, as they expect 2014 to be a year of growth for the industry. As regards the retail sector, 57% of firms will create jobs, driven by the region's rapid population growth and increasing penetration of retail outlets in more remote locations.

According to GulfTalent's report, the UAE has further strengthened its position as the prime destination for expatriates in the GCC. Optimism about the country's future has increased following Dubai's economic recovery and successful bid for hosting the 2020 Expo. Expatriates also continue to value the UAE's stability, especially as parts of the wider region remain plagued by tensions. Not surprisingly, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the region's most attractive cities, followed by Qatar's capital, Doha. Bahrain, on the other hand, remains the least attractive destination for expatriates.

Meanwhile across the region, employers are increasingly under pressure to reduce their reliance on expatriate talent, particularly in Saudi Arabia. As growth in Asia remains strong, expatriate recruitment from those markets, particularly India, continues to be challenging, but has benefited from recent falls in their currency values. The supply of Arab expatriate talent has increased drastically due to tensions in Egypt and Syria. However, increased visa restrictions on nationals of these countries in parts of the GCC is preventing employers from hiring them.

GulfTalent's report is based on an online survey of 800 employers and 34,000 professionals, as well as 60 interviews with executives and HR professionals. The full version of the report "Employment and Salary Trends in the Gulf 2014" is available for download free of charge from the company's website at www.gulftalent.com.  

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