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Managing Partner's Letter

As a recruitment agency, we are constantly asked about the state of the job market in the UAE and the challenges it faces. As we start this new decade – and especially as Dubai Expo 2020 draws nearer – the questions surrounding the industry continue.

We have therefore surveyed over 200 companies in the UAE to put together this concise and informative market report. We hope it will help map out where we see the industry going over the next 12 months and beyond.

Following the results of our market study, we are seeing there is an increased appetite for hiring in 2020 with 76% of the companies we surveyed looking to increase their Emirati headcount. However, according to 42% of the companies in our report, salary expectations need to be adjusted in order to achieve these hiring goals. Another challenge that has cropped up in our report is the shortage of desired skills in the UAE workforce.

As the future of work evolves, companies are looking to fill this skills gap by retraining their current employees, something which is key to both employee retention and business success. In terms of Emiratisation, our study shows that the financial sector is leading the way with the introduction of the new points system. Although still in its initial phase, the new system has already started positively changing the long-term dynamics of nationalisation within the industry.

We hope the results of our market report help you with your HR strategy for 2020. For further information on Emiratisation, please feel free to contact us.

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Market Sectors

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Banking & Finance

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Human Resources

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Marketing is a sector that is rapidly evolving and the search for Emirati talent is stronger than ever. From our survey, the highest skills shortage comes in the field of marketing with over 16% of companies citing challenges in this space.

The UAE continues to move towards digitisation and innovation-orientated employment, directed by the Smart Dubai 2021 Strategy. With this, digital marketing will become more of a focus in 2020, with AI innovation opening new lines of engagement with customers.

70% of UAE businesses believe that data is the new currency, and marketing teams will be proactively seeking Emiratis with data analytics skills to drive revenue and brand loyalty.



Last year the Central Bank set out a target of 29,736 points for Emiratisation in the sector, which has brought a more holistic view to the hiring and retention of UAE nationals within financial services.

There is still an increasing demand for Emiratis in the banking sector across all critical roles, and this will continue into 2020. One area we do expect to increase is the demand for skilled investment and risk management candidates, due to continued diversification in the UAE.

On the whole, over 76% of companies surveyed are planning on increasing their Emirati headcount in 2020, especially within top management roles.



HR has seen a notable shift towards a need for holistic business partners, who can plan strategically while acting operationally. More so than ever, companies need HR professionals who are people-centric and can add real value to their organisation.

70% of UAE organisations have had to change their manpower plans due to the new Emiratisation mandate, with 49% planning to increase the number of UAE national employees in 2020. In order to be able to attract and retain higher numbers of Emirati employees, companies are planning on implementing strategic training and development programmes, as well flexible working arrangements.



As digitisation continues to develop, the skills pool in the UAE reduces. A quarter of the companies surveyed in our report state concerns about finding sufficient UAE nationals with the right digital experience to fill these innovative technology roles.

We expect the number of Cloud-based service providers in the market to rise, as the demand for cost-effective IT solutions increases further. This will have an impact on the manpower needed in IT teams, and whilst innovations like AI, AR and Blockchain do offer many growth opportunities, they also highlight gaps in our local talent pool.


EXPO 2020

The year of Dubai Expo has finally arrived and with it, expectations for growth. 71% of UAE organisations believe that the international reach and connectivity of Expo 2020 will have a positive impact on their business. The strong investment in accelerating the strategic and operational abilities of UAE national employees, alongside the international exposure gained by the Expo, have led to an upskilled Emirati workforce.

Long after the Expo has closed its doors, its ripple effect will still continue, with Dubai being recognised as a diverse and innovative economic hub. The District 2020 legacy plan will see an integrated community that supports the acceleration of Dubai’s development by attracting future innovators and pioneers.

UAE organisations will be in fierce competition to retain and attract top talent to keep the legacy plan and hype from Dubai Expo alive.