GCC salary study: Some jobs ‘positively impacted’ in 2020, pay rises forecast in 2021

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Many people working in the Gulf have seen their salaries ‘positively impacted’ during 2020 while half of employers plan pay rises for staff in 2021, according to the Hays 2021 Salary & Employment Report.

While 2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges for the global jobs market, salaries for the majority of professionals working in the Gulf region were unaffected.

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Released on Wednesday, Hays’ research also revealed that employees surveyed expect their pay to increase this year.

“As ever, when it comes to salaries, it has been a mixed picture for professionals in the region,” said Chris Greaves, managing director of Hays Gulf region.

Greaves admitted that the widespread assumption that professional lives were negatively affected by COVID-19 existed, but “as our survey shows, this is just not the case,” he said.

Compiled from a survey of more than 3,500 employers and employees from across the region, the report found that while 18 percent of working professionals’ salaries decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, a significant 34 percent increased, and 48 percent remained the same.

Industry trends

The report found that of all the different job functions, IT and technology professionals experienced the greatest number of pay increases in 2020 (38 percent), while the lowest number of salary increases were paid to those in office support and administration roles (26 percent).

“Demand and salaries for tech professionals have been relatively high as, despite the challenges COVID-19 has brought to businesses this year, the need for automation is more crucial than ever in enabling organizations to remain competitive in their respective markets,” said Greaves.

“Employers are willing to pay high salaries for the top tech talent to ensure they are setup as efficiently as possible for business going forward,” he explained.

With the forced closure of many offices during the lockdown, demand for office support and administrative roles decreased, along with salaries, Greaves said, and added that “the shift to more home and remote working, made many of these roles redundant.”

When comparing different industry sectors: telecoms; pharmaceuticals and life sciences; and banking and financial services were the three most robust industries in 2020, with only six percent of employees within these experiencing a pay cut.

The four sectors which introduced the highest salary reductions were aviation, hospitality and tourism, engineering, and property. Thirty-four percent of employees in these industries experienced pay cuts.

The aviation sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. (File photo: Reuters)
The aviation sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. (File photo: Reuters)

“It is of no surprise that these industries have been most negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Greaves. “Lockdowns and threats of spreading the virus reduced tourism numbers overnight in March, and there are still many barriers to traveling.”

Oil prices fell parallel to demand and resulted in some significant cutbacks on fiscal and monetary policies of governments of oil-producing nations.

Looking ahead

Salary expectations for 2021 are optimistic with nearly half, 47 percent, of employers planning to increase pay rates in their organization in the next 12 months.

Similarly, 47 percent of employees expect their salary to increase in 2021, most commonly by 5-10 percent.

“From our own experiences in the market, business activity really picked up across all sectors towards the end of 2020, and we believe this momentum will continue over the coming months,” he said.

“We believe that the worst impacts of the pandemic are behind us, and organizations will add to their headcount and reward staff going forward, rather than freezing pay or making further redundancies,” Greaves concluded.

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