UAE firms hire more from Asia to help reduce expat costs

March 25, 2019 1:18 pm Published by

The days of highly attractive expat packages, which included everything from business class flights to housing, medical and schooling, may be long gone but expats are still very much in demand throughout the UAE.

However, who firms, choose to target has changed as cost-conscious UAE firms look to recruit lower paid professionals from less traditional countries and routes instead, in particular ones who have no families amid an ongoing reluctance of employers to subsidise the living costs of employees’ families.

Although, it is not just cost cutting measures that are bringing about the changes, many UAE employers feel they no longer need to entice workers to come work for them.

Historically, expat packages were so attractive as their elite skills were greatly needed and also because moving to the country where the role was based would probably bring some adversity to either the applicant or their families.

Now however, moving to the UAE to work is considered by many all over the world as a dream posting. So, there is simply no need to offer expats from the more traditional routes of America and Europe these incentives, as there is so much candidate choice from other countries, especially India and the rest of Asia.

These changes to the UAE expat job space are substantiated by the latest results of a survey conducted by GulfTalent the leading job site for professionals in the Middle East and Gulf region.

The study was based on a survey of 1,117 senior executives, including CEOs and senior managers of companies across the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and was conducted during February and March 2018.

The results highlight that UAE employers are planning a net 9% growth expansion in headcount during 2019 and that an increasing proportion of the new vacancies are being filled by candidates of Asian nationality, with employers quoting the lower salary expectations of these candidates as the primary reason.

Over the past year, Asian nationals saw a 12% increase in their share of approaches by UAE employers hiring on GulfTalent, while Arab and Western expats saw declines of 8% and 10%, respectively.

Confirming this trend, one UAE-based HR Manager interviewed by GulfTalent said “Our hiring preference has been towards Asian expats, as it gives us a balance between the right skill set and a salary expectation that fits our budget.”

Based on GulfTalent’s data, among expatriate professionals working in the UAE and holding the same job title, salaries paid to Asian nationals are on average 20% lower than Arab nationals and 40% lower than Western nationals. The gaps in expatriate salary expectations are influenced by the prevailing salaries in the candidates’ home countries.

Among nationalities commanding a big share of the UAE hiring activity, Indian and Pakistani professionals have seen the biggest surge in interest from employers over the past year, followed by those from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Simultaneously, American, Canadian and Australian nationals all saw declines in hiring by UAE employers.

Although British nationals also saw a decline, it was to a lesser extent. This might be due to the continued uncertainty over Brexit making salary expectations of British expats lower.

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