Last year’s Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) revealed that the Middle East is the third most popular region for job seekers in the energy sector – behind only North America and Europe.
In particular, The United Arab Emirates contains a buoyant and optimistic employment picture.
Why is there such optimism about the nation’s place as a working destination? The answer may lie in the breadth of new projects, compensation expectations and the attractiveness of the location.
A small local population and wealth of energy resources creates opportunities for expat expertise. Because of the huge growth potential in the region, this is even true in areas with strict local content policies. Large capital development projects on the horizon could provide jobs for locals and expats for the next two decades. Not only are they investing $40-60bn dollars to increase oil production, but the nation also plans to invest into diversified energy projects. Consider the Barakah Nuclear Plant and The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park projects as well as the showcase event, Expo2020. These three projects place sustainable energy as a key agenda focus.
Such ambitious development has enhanced optimism for energy professionals in the Middle East. GETI revealed that 48 per cent expected salaries to maintain or increase over the next 12 months. However, hiring managers were more cautious, with only a quarter expecting salaries to increase within the same time period.
It can be argued that remuneration isn’t the primary motivator for those moving to the Middle East. The area’s strength lies in its generous tax regimes and benefits packages that can include housing and schooling, and end-of-project bonuses.
While the downturn has impacted some of these packages slightly, many professionals remain enthusiastic about the industry and the benefits of living and working in the rapidly growing UAE economy.
The attractiveness of the United Arab Emirates as a working destination can not be understated. With a high quality of living, a vibrant multi-cultural population and continued investment in infrastructure, the nation represents an amazing place to work and do business. As a place to live, who can say no to an area renowned for sunny beaches, acclaimed hospitality and beautiful landscapes?
The UAE is also growing as a cultural powerhouse. Notable attractions include the world’s largest indoor theme park, Dubai Opera and the interactive theatre La Perle. These attractions are key factors in Dubai ranking as the 4th most visited city in Mastercard’s 2017 Global Destination Cities Index.
The demography of the UAE is extremely diverse. A multi-cultural population represents over 180 different nationalities. This distinct collection of collaborators produces an innovative range of working practices.
Additionally, Dubai is growing as a connecting hub for multinational businesses. Many key emerging economies within China, Southeast Asia and the African continent can be reached within a 12-hour flight.
The UAE has the most advanced and developed infrastructure in the region, having invested billions since the 1980s. There is always something going on. At the minute, there is a huge amount of investment in infrastructure with new roads/metro lines/projects in run up to Expo2020, this makes it an attractive market for new companies, entrepreneurs and investors
But it’s not all rosy. After all, most hiring managers don’t expect salaries to rise and reduced packages across the industry have made it harder for operators to retain an experienced workforce. These workers, who have been in the industry for decades, are finding it harder to acclimatise to the new, reduced, benefits packages. In addition, they are likely to feel the biggest comparative pinch because they are the highest earners. Some of this top talent is even transitioning over to other sectors such as the process and infrastructure industries. These sectors appear attractive as they offer comparable pay but with higher job security.
For firms looking to relocate their existing employees, the complexities of meeting regulatory requirements can be off putting. Managing visas, payroll and employee settlement require detailed understanding of local legislation and administrative procedures. In response to the needs of many of our clients, Airswift set up a national office and secured a Dubai manpower licence to support their global mobility plans. The licence enables us to process an unlimited number of visa applications on a client’s behalf.
Specifically, the industry in the Middle East also continues to suffer from skewed Western perceptions, deterring some people from moving their family due to safety and security fears. It’s a shame, as this is almost entirely misconception, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s another recruitment challenge for local operators.
These two views of the industry, revealed by the GETI report, may seem contradictory at first. On the one hand, the industry as a whole and the region in particular face continuing headwinds, yet the talent keeps following and remains largely undeterred.
Why? Well, despite everything, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives and the proof is in the pudding. Airswift’s monthly averages of 65 hires in the Middle East is double that of our 2017 average. We have already made over 510 hires before the end of Q3 and are growing continually.
I can personally attest that, despite the myths, the Middle East is a fantastic place to live and make a career in the oil and gas industry. The optimism that pervades the GETI results tells me that many in the sector feel the same.
Ford Garrard is the Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Airswift
At Airswift, we are the premier workforce staffing provider for the energy, process and infrastructure sectors. We are the go-to company for companies and professionals looking for business opportunities in the Middle East and throughout the globe
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