Tech skills are what UAE businesses are chasing now


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Aden – Yasmin Abdel Azim – For many, the most valuable piece of paper these days – a job offer. Even in the grip of the pandemic, certain categories are recruiting in the UAE. Image Credit: Thinkstock

The UAE’s tech sector could be the first one to post a recovery on the recruitment side… and it could be a strong one. There are already signs of that.

If the suitable candidates are not available locally, recruiters are extending the search to India and Eastern Europe and fly them in when flights commence.

The UAE’s e-commerce industry is definitely on a hiring spree, even as other categories are still trying to come to terms with their staff requirements after the pandemic. Recruitment agencies are being sounded out for roles like data scientists/analysts, project/product managers, full-stack developers, UI/UX developers, and even “technology evangelists”.

“If you look at the whole supply chain of e-commerce – right from conceptualising and designing a tech platform to the middle layer of marketing and customer service to the last leg of logistics and delivery – that is where the majority of hiring is taking place,” said Abbas Ali, Senior Vice-President at TASC Outsourcing.

COVID-19 has finally convinced local businesses that they can no longer afford to go slow on their digital/tech investments. The last few weeks, when most work was getting done remotely, was brutal on any organization that didn’t have the basic infrastructure in place.

Their chances of recovering once the pandemic settles down is also on shaky ground.

What are techies being paid?

Salaries for the in-demand positions in tech range on average from Dh17,000 to Dh35,000, depending on experience and projects delivered. And of course, also dependent on how desperate employers are to get the talent on board.

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Companies are also hiring specialist skillsets from India and Eastern Europe and getting them to start work remotely. “They are available to join immediately and don’t affect the project’s go-live date,” said Ali. “For most tech-based roles, new recruits can begin remote work immediately.”

But some roles have taken a hit

Human resources (HR), online and digital marketing positions, however, are suffering as a result of the virus attack. Advertising and media roles too taken a disproportionate share of the downturn.

“All companies we deal with have reduced HR functions across the board,” said David Mackenzie, Group Managing Director at Mackenzie Jones. “Roles being cut are in the areas of HR director, learning and development, as well as training since companies are functioning with reduced workforces.”

Worst hit

The mid- to senior end of the market has seen the most losses in the initial weeks of the crisis. There are not too many senior level jobs being advertised in the UAE, considering the cost to business. Most of the larger organisations have already trimmed their managerial positions – and more cuts will happen through June and July.

Outside of tech

Finance and sales roles in pharmaceutical, FMCG and education sectors are being actively advertised. “Big business groups continue to fill roles rather than create new jobs,” said Mackenzie. “These candidates are either a replacement or the roles have come about as a result of restructuring,”

Parts of the healthcare sector is hiring – A new trend is of UAE corporates hiring nurses and a healthcare team to check on employees’ health status. They get paid between Dh8,000 to Dh10,000 a month, according to TASC Outsourcing.

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Cuts are part of the reality

Reduced pay is the new norm. A 20 per cent salary “correction” is evident in mid to senior roles while junior and entry level roles are being spared this – for now.

“It’s an employer’s market now and they can pick and choose,” said Sahiqa Bennett, CEO of Searchie. “There are more mid-level openings with junior category salaries since people are desperate to get work and will take huge cuts.

“For instance, digital marketing executives who were being paid Dh30,00 will now be paid Dh20,000. But, international e-commerce brands that are hiring have stuck to their pay scale. They are not taking advantage of the current market situation.”

With many in contention for fewer jobs, employees are getting their way on salary expectations. “Those who were earning between Dh40,000-Dh50,000 a month are willing to take up Dh30,000,” Mackenzie added.

Roles repurposed

Instead of sacking employees en masse, some businesses in the UAE are re-skilling staff. Employees in brick-and-mortar shops are being trained to become online chat support staff.

“There are no salary reductions when junior jobs are being repurposed,” said Ali.

Living with redundancy fears

Recruitment industry sources are unanimous that more redundancies are coming.

“I reckon June will be the worst month for redundancies – a lot of people might exit the UAE by July if they don’t find jobs,” said David Mackenzie of Mackenzie Jones. “We need the economy to pick up for new roles to be created. At the moment, companies are functioning on a bare-bones capacity.”

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