Weak regional dynamics and low oil prices dampened growth in 2016. The UAE economy slowed due to harsh austerity measures and poor performance among key trading partners, such as Saudi Arabia which witnessed sharp cuts in government spending and an increasing budget deficit. On the positive side, megaproject implementation ahead of Expo 2020 and Dubai’s retention of ‘safe haven’ status have strengthened the country’s economic resilience.
Job hiring in the UAE remained generally weak in 2016, with the number of vacancies posted online registering a significant decline compared to 2015. The expected recovery in oil prices (due to recent agreements by OPEC and non-OPEC countries on the output cuts), combined with growing public and private sector activity boosted by Dubai’s preparations for Expo 2020, will see real GDP growth rise to 3.1% a year in 2017. This will have a positive effect on hiring trends for finance positions.
Employers have been consolidating their workforce, focusing on the transformation and streamlining of operations; this trend was clearly visible in business support functions, such as finance. Some sectors e.g. oil and gas services, banking, hospitality, trade and construction, have seen an ongoing reduction in headcount, resulting in an oversupply of immediately available, well-qualified talent. As a result, the competition amongst job seekers has dramatically increased in 2016 and this will continue in 2017.
Inflation and cost of living are other concerns, and when coupled with stagnant salaries and difficulties in securing a desirable role and package, they have contributed to an increasing number of expatriates leaving the UAE. However, in 2017 businesses across the UAE will continue their historical interest in hiring finance and accounting professionals with formal accounting qualifications (ACCA, CPA, ACA, CA), experienced in working for multinational organisations and who can implement financial discipline and improved controls.
SALARY & COMPENSATION
Our research shows that the salaries for finance and accounting professionals in 2017 are expected to feel downward pressure, with stricter hiring criteria and more rigorous interview processes, compounded by an oversupply of locally available, well-qualified talent. The overall salaries across finance functions are only expected to increase marginally above the inflation level in 2017.
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