Hiring expectations in the Middle East for 2017
Oil prices staged a mild recovery in quarter four of 2016, due to a combination of the recent OPEC deal limiting production and non-OPEC producers, especially Russia, falling in line. This, combined with a genuine drive by Saudi Arabia to diversify its petroleum economy, including the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and joint ventures through the Saudi Arabian Industrial Investments Company (SAIIC), means we expect to see cautious optimism in 2017.
One initiative that will continue to dominate recruitment trends in 2017 is the ongoing nationalisation drive within all the GCC countries. Investment in education by governments in the region over the last two decades is paying dividends, with more young Arabs having the right skills to take on complex white collar roles and excel in them. Over the last three years, Saudi and Emirati nationals have become an important candidate pool and this will grow further.
The Iranian market looked promising in 2016 as many companies considered investing in this vast country, but few committed external talent. We believe this will change in 2017 with more businesses establishing themselves. As a result, demand for Westerneducated, bilingual Farsi speakers will increase.
The strong dollar continues to negatively impact tourism and hospitality as visitor numbers from Europe and the UK decline in the short-term. Dubai’s ambitious target of 20 million visitors a year by 2020 is, however, still on track. The government is removing obstacles to entry, including visas on arrival for Chinese visitors, and it wants to attract tourists from a wide range of countries. This, along with widespread economic stimulus in the runup to Expo 20/20, will increase talent demand in the areas of legal, finance, sales and marketing, procurement, IT and strategy into the hotel and hospitality sector.
If the oil price continues to rise in 2017 and can hold above $60 a barrel then we expect infrastructure projects and deals across the region to resume, leading to increases in talent acquisition across the board.
Overall, salary levels are expected to be flat in 2017, certainly for the first half of the year.