HR in the Region – Market Update from the Middle East

2016 was the year of profound uncertainty surrounding low oil prices, Brexit and US elections. Whilst some of these risks have not subsided completely, most job losses and restructuring exercises that were announced in 2016 have now been completed. Businesses in the region are now leaner and more efficient in their operations and have been able to factor geopolitical uncertainties into their investment decisions for 2017.

The start of 2017 has so far been cautious yet steady and - whilst hiring in sectors like Oil & Gas, Retail and Hospitality remains tentative, we have seen improved hiring activity in areas such as Healthcare, Professional Services and Pharmaceutical businesses. Despite austerity measures across the region, hiring in Saudi Arabia remains robust and the need for meeting nationalisation targets by clients remains high, particularly within their respective HR functions. With the IPO of Saudi Aramco on the horizon (which could result in the world’s biggest public offering in history, valuing the company at over $2 trillion), coupled with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 mandate, consultancy and advisory firms continue to thrive.

The impact of the introduction of VAT in January 2018 on the wider economy remains to be seen and is a subject of wider debate. While VAT may boost much-needed government revenues, there will naturally be an impact on the overall cost of living for expats in the region. Will employers absorb this extra ‘cost of living’ into their reward policies for 2018 or will employees have to make adjustments to their expenditure and savings? This is the question facing many expats over the course of the next year. Harmonization of Reward strategies continues to be a topic of discussion across HR forums in the region and the demand for Rewards professionals in the region continues to be strong.

In spite of the uncertainties and turbulent times over the past year, the UAE strives to be a hub for start-up Middle Eastern unicorn ventures such as Souq.com (recently acquired by Amazon), Careem, and Noon.com. With the rise of e-commerce and platform-based companies in the region, we have seen a growing trend for HR Talent with a strong grounding in Talent Management, Development, and Engagement. Although still a fairly new concept in this region, we anticipate a growing need for HR Analytics and HRIS professionals in 2017 / 2018.

Please feel free to get in touch for a further discussion on the market or a confidential discussion on your recruitment requirements for you or your team. I look forward to hearing from you.