Ask anyone about why they would choose the UAE as a top location to work from and they would likely tell you: “No income taxes, high salaries, job security, and great benefits.”
There are still no income taxes today, but the other three components have been severely compromised as a result of COVID-19.
Some jobs are coming back but redundancies are still here, full salaries are being reinstated but packages have changed, and employees’ mental well-being is lacking as is job security.
In an AMEinfo exclusive with Zahra Clark, Head of MENA at Tiger Recruitment, we delved into these issues, looked at recruitment trends, and more.
Who is Tiger Recruitment?
Founded in 2001, Tiger Recruitment has grown to become one of the leading providers of skilled candidates, with offices in London, New York, and the UAE.
Tiger Recruitment engages in both permanent and temporary support recruitment serving key business sectors such as banking, professional services, and creative industries, the private sector and the needs of high and ultra-high net worth individuals, and the technology sector for clients ranging from tech start-ups to blue-chip multinationals.
Mental health and job security
Is the future of work remote or hybrid?
“Tech companies are likely to work from home in the future, but most of my clients are doing a split rotation as many companies are,” Clark said.
According to Clark, the entry of a COVID-19 vaccine won’t affect the new work environment and people will continue to work from home (WFH), but one of its challenges is its impact on mental health.
Working from home is a double-edged sword. It brought with it more flexibility and a better work/life balance. But it also produced a host of issues that threw employees out of kilter.
“Many thrive on the social interaction of the office, where if you have a low day, colleagues can build you up. Some feel they need more job security and others feel stuck working on their laptops all the time,” Clark explained.
She suggests employees take regular breaks, get on the phone or on a video call with colleagues, and schedule exercise routines as a way to combat these anxieties.
“The future is about adapting to this new era of flexible working, and learning to adjust to change,” Clark said.
Mental health issues can be dealt with but are serious, as per Tiger Recruitment’s own survey which revealed that redundancies and pay cuts left 70% of workers worried about finding a new job and 61% fearing for their job security, while 72% think that their employer could be doing more to help them through this difficult time.
Happy, healthy employees are more loyal, more engaged, and, according to Oxford University research, 13% more productive.
Is counseling an important element in the future of work? “It can certainly help. In addition, physical activity will also make a positive difference – like going to the gym, jogging, or doing yoga. Companies should adopt a wellbeing policy and, as part of that, encourage employees with membership discounts to sporting clubs and activities,” Clark advised.
Jobs, salaries, and expat exodus
According to Clark, companies did apply salary cuts during the lockdown periods but, for most employers, wages have been reinstated to where they were prior to COVID-19, especially for those working for the government and multinationals.
“What has been impacted is the overall package, like school tuition and/or housing allowance. Generally speaking, employees are just getting a basic package that includes health insurance for them and their families,” Clark said.
“Because of this, I have seen an exodus of expats who found themselves unable to afford school tuition fees and/or housing, and this has created a shift in recruitment towards expats who have no children.”
She said layoffs are happening especially in hard-hit sectors like hospitality and aviation, but even more so in companies that supply these sectors.
“It’s a domino effect. These companies have had to adapt to these changes quickly and re-engineer their business structures. This includes shifting people around in different positions, and implementing salary cuts and redundancies just to survive,” Clark described.
According to Tiger Recruitment’s research, more than half of employees (56%) say their role was made redundant in the past year, and 7 in 10 of those are still out of work. A quarter (25%) have had a pay cut, while almost half (46%) say they last had a pay rise more than two years ago.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, finding a new job and job security are the two biggest concerns for UAE employees right now, with 85% very or quite concerned about the impact the coronavirus will have on their future career prospects.
That on its own has put employers on high alert.
“Employers are far more selective in their recruitment requirements than before,” Clark started.
“Interviews are longer, from an average of 3 interviews per candidate to now 4-6, as more and more clients are trying to zero-in on the interviewee’s genuine work intentions.”
Companies are trying to figure out whether candidates are applying because they have the skills and the passion behind it or out of desperation to work and not remain unemployed.
“Recruitment is expensive and this cost factor is impacting the hiring process as companies look to match the right person for the right job,” Clark revealed.
The job market
Clark said the UAE government is trying to indirectly help the job market by introducing lower fees for businesses, and inviting global freelance workers to set up their home office in the country and enjoy the same benefits as residents.
“The recruitment market is improving and we are in a recovery stage, but it won’t be until the middle of next year before we settle down completely,” Clark opined.
“I see more legal positions opening recently, but there’s also been an uplift in jobs across asset management and large government projects, as for example Saudi NEOM.”
Finally, will the new normal of salaries and benefits remain with us after COVID-19?
“I can’t predict but I see little change in the near future and it’s only if property prices surge that salaries will have to increase in tandem, but for now, the way everything is structured is meant to stabilize the economy and job market,” Clark concluded.