The Candidate's Market: How to Hire IT Professionals in the UAE

The UAE has become an attractive tech hub thanks to its tax benefits, strong economy, and impressive IT infrastructure, making it a magnet for IT specialists, startups, and tech giants. However, finding qualified employees remains challenging, so today, we discuss the current trends in the Emirati job market and offer tips on finding the perfect fit for your team.

Current Market Situation

The UAE is currently one of the most technologically advanced and developed regions. A US Chamber of Commerce study from November 2023 highlights significant investments in AI, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and 5G.

The UAE's commitment to cutting-edge technology and innovation, along with its openness to foreign talent, has positioned it as a major destination for international companies and specialists. This is reflected in the UAE's population, where expatriates constitute over 88%. This unique demographic makeup has significantly influenced the country's IT recruitment landscape. On one hand, there is high competition for skilled candidates, and on the other hand, there is a large pool of actively job-seeking expats, making recruitment a complex process.
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IT Salaries in the UAE

IT employers in the UAE may be tempted by a pool of expats willing to work for 5−10% lower salaries. However, this strategy might not deliver the cost savings employers anticipate for several reasons:
The high cost of living in the UAE makes up for the difference. Dubai’s cost of living index sits at 64.1 (with a higher number meaning pricier), and the average salary in the UAE is $ 3407. It means employers might still need to offer competitive packages to attract top talent, even if they can find expats willing to accept a bit less upfront.
IT specialists with English fluency, making them ideal candidates for international companies with UAE hubs, command an average premium of 30% compared to their non-English-speaking counterparts.
The nature of the IT industry itself fuels salary growth. With its rapid pace of development and the constant need for professionals to stay ahead of the curve by mastering new technologies, IT salaries, particularly for senior positions, have been on a steady upward trend.

Thinking of opening a business in Dubai? Get valuable insights from our article:

Arabian Dream: How to Start a Business in the UAE

Pinpointing exact salary figures in the UAE’s IT market can be tricky. Several factors come into play, including the company’s industry, the specific position, skills, and the employer’s budget. For instance, a Senior Java developer’s salary can vary significantly depending on the project, ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 15,000.

Filling an open IT position can be challenging if you’re unsure about fair compensation. Here’s a tip: discuss salary expectations directly with candidates. With the current IT market favouring candidates (especially for senior roles), their expectations are likely to align with market rates.

Remote Work vs. Relocation in the UAE

Both traditional office jobs and remote options are popular in the UAE. This trend will continue throughout 2024. However, there are currently more job opportunities requiring relocation and office-based work. There are two reasons for this:
  • Some companies still prefer to have their employees work on-site.
  • Many IT professionals seem open to relocating to the UAE.
Compared to the EU, UK or US, the relocation process in the UAE can be much smoother. The process typically requires a streamlined set of documents, including the employment contract, job offer, and employee insurance. There’s also no income tax on employees, and the visa process is generally faster and less complex.
The UAE job market appears to be seeing a rise in on-site positions with relocation packages. This trend aligns with the preference for in-office work and streamlined relocation processes. However, while relocation benefits both employers and employees, it might limit the talent pool for a particular role.
We recently looked for a senior blockchain developer specialising in smart contracts for a tech company in Abu Dhabi. The company prioritised in-person collaboration and expected the new hire to relocate. We searched globally and explored previously unknown to use the Pakistani market.
Despite offering a salary of $ 10,000, full relocation support, and other IT benefits, we couldn’t find the right fit. Experienced developers were already engaged in other projects, and counteroffers from their current employers further complicated our task.

Furthermore, candidates of this level were not ready to move to the UAE, preferring more affordable places to live. To fill the position, we considered adjusting the conditions. Options included raising the salary to $ 15,000-$ 20,000, offering remote work, or lowering the requirements for the role. The client chose to look for a mid-level specialist with room for growth, which proved successful. We eventually found a motivated candidate willing to relocate to Abu Dhabi.

This case showcases that filling IT positions often requires some flexibility. Being open to remote work options, discussing salary ranges, and understanding what motivates candidates can go a long way in finding the right fit.
Lucky Hunter Case

Hiring in the UAE: Tips for Entrepreneurs

If you’re hiring IT professionals in the UAE, here are some tips to help streamline your search:
  • Be Specific in Job Postings:
    To avoid a flood of irrelevant applications, clearly define the required skills and experience. Highlight the role’s impact and your company culture to attract qualified candidates.
  • Maintain Competitive Salaries:
    While talent may be abundant, so are IT job openings. Don’t underestimate the competition. Offer competitive salaries and benefits packages to attract the best, especially for experienced and rare specialists.
  • Flexible Work Formats:
    Remote and office-based roles are prevalent in the UAE. Be open to flexible work arrangements to widen your talent pool. If an ideal candidate prefers remote work, consider accommodating them.
  • Emiratisation:
    The UAE government prioritises Emiratisation — the initiative that aims to increase Emirati participation in the workforce.

Learn more about Emiratisation and its implications for your recruitment strategy in our article:

Emiratisation: Shaping the Future of Hiring in the UAE

  • Partner with Experts:
    Consider partnering with specialised IT recruitment agencies like Lucky Hunter.
Our experience and network can help you navigate the local market, hire qualified candidates, and streamline your hiring process. Fill out the form, and let’s begin working on your case.

Alexandra Godunova
Content Manager at Lucky Hunter
Focusing on a diverse range of topics including talent acquisition strategies, employer branding, workplace culture, leadership development, and industry trends. With her extensive knowledge, she delivers engaging content that helps businesses thrive in the competitive landscape of today's job market.
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