Saudi Arabia’s NEOM, mega projects driving recruitment, pay hikes: Report

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Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion mega business and tourism project NEOM and the Kingdom’s 2030 diversification plans are driving a surge in new employment opportunities in the country while salaries are expected to rise by an average of 3 percent in 2023, according to recruitment experts.

A survey by recruitment company Cooper Fitch found that Saudi Arabia saw a significant uptick in recruitment demand in 2022 with high levels of activity across all sectors particularly real estate and hospitality.

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A slew of mega and giga-projects that will gather pace in 2023 – including NEOM’s THE LINE, where residents will live in a 170 km-long, 500 meter-tall city run by artificial intelligence and designed to house 9 million people – will see a similar recruitment trend within the country’s project management and development segments this year, the report said.

“The ever-growing maturation of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil sectors, coupled with rising demand for the human capital necessary to complete developments of unprecedented scope on time and within budget, resulted in a major boost for recruitment in 2022,” Trefor Murphy, founder and chief executive of Cooper Fitch, said in the company’s 2023 Saudi Arabia Salary Guide.

“Spurred on by the ambitious goals set out in Vision 2030, this trend looks set to continue into 2023 – so much so that we expect KSA to top the global recruitment league tables next year.”

Recruiters are seeking professionals in a range of sectors, including technology, real estate sales, hospitality, and banking and finance, according to the Cooper Fitch report.

“Over the past year, Saudi Arabia recruitment has benefitted from sustained investment in growth sectors, with mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital all making valuable contributions,” Cooper Fitch said.

“Growth within the nation’s flourishing tech industry has been particularly pronounced, thanks to support from the many Saudi incubator and accelerator networks,” the report added.

Pay increases in Saudi Arabia

Cooper Fitch also carried out a survey asking companies about pay rises. It found 39 percent of companies increased salaries in 2022 – especially in the automotive, construction, consulting, financial and logistics sectors - while almost half (43 percent) planned to increase salaries in 2023.

“[This] is indicative of the increased competition we are likely to witness among employers looking to attract the best talent,” Murphy said.

“Saudi Arabia’s economy is expanding rapidly, and Cooper Fitch expects development and diversification to continue swiftly in 2023. Alongside the progress of mega and giga-projects, with work on built assets and infrastructure now commencing, there is a parallel drive to grow the Kingdom’s technology industries.”

Bonuses in Saudi Arabia

Bonuses are also on the cards in 2023, with 81 percent of companies quizzed in the Cooper Fitch survey saying they plan to reward employees with an annual bonus based on their financial performance in 2022.

Of those intending to issue bonuses this year, 26 percent will reward employees with one month’s gross salary, 17 percent will pay a two-month bonus and 19 percent will give staff a three-month bonus, the survey found.

“One-in-10 employees working for the firms surveyed can expect annual bonuses amounting to six months’ gross salary,” Cooper Fitch says in its report.

“Industries represented in this category include aviation and aerospace, banking, financial services, investment management and government relations.”

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