Coronavirus dents Mideast hiring activity, salary levels

Coronavirus dents Mideast hiring activity, salary levels
Interview invitations sent to candidates based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia dropped by 14 percent and 3 percent, respectively. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 09 December 2020

Coronavirus dents Mideast hiring activity, salary levels

Coronavirus dents Mideast hiring activity, salary levels
  • Expatriate workers from India and Pakistan hit by Gulf jobs slowdown

RIYADH: The economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to a drop in hiring activity and salary levels for jobseekers in the Middle East, with some professionals in the region changing career paths entirely, according to the latest findings by online recruitment firm GulfTalent.

GulfTalent’s study was based on analysis of 2019 and 2020 hiring activity, including 6 million job applications submitted by jobseekers, 350,000 interview invitations issued by employers, and survey interviews with a sample of candidates.

The research found that the average number of interview invitations per active jobseeker was down by almost 50 percent for some segments of the market.

The drop was most severe for teachers and catering professionals, who saw their interview invitations collapse by 48 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Other professions in the engineering, legal, marketing, IT and finance sectors suffered more modest declines.

On the flip side, employment demand for a handful of professions increased during the pandemic — notably medical staff, who enjoyed a 19 percent increase in demand, followed by logistics professionals at 12 percent, thanks to the rapid growth in online shopping.

Late last month, online retail giant Amazon announced it had created 3,400 new jobs across the Kingdom, with 60 percent filled by Saudi nationals.

Prashant Saran, director of operations for Amazon Middle East and North Africa, said at the time: “We have continued to invest in Saudi Arabia as part of our long-term commitment to our customers.”

In terms of specific locations, interview invitations sent to candidates based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia dropped by 14 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

The modest impact experienced by jobseekers in Saudi Arabia could be due to the fact that business activity in the Kingdom has risen to its highest level since January this year, according to a report last week.

IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) Survey also found that employment growth in Saudi Arabia returned for the first time since January.

Commenting on the latest survey, David Owen, an economist at IHS Markit, said: “A third successive rise in the Saudi Arabia PMI pointed to an economy getting back on its feet in November. Notably, employment started to rise, while business confidence strengthened in the wake of encouraging vaccine news and sharper demand growth.”

By contrast, candidates based in India and Pakistan seeking opportunities in the Gulf saw demand drops of 46 percent and 41 percent, respectively, as flight cancelations and border closures brought international hiring to a standstill.

A similar slowdown was experienced in hiring by applicants based in Egypt and Lebanon, which in the past have traditionally been major sources of workers for Gulf employers.

The GulfTalent research also found that the pandemic has resulted in a large decline in salaries, as the supply-demand balance has shifted in favor of employers.