This article was contributed in January 2021 by Hayley Wilkins, Senior Manager – Customer Engagement & HR, Michael Page Middle East

How quickly has 2020 gone by? It already feels like a bit of blur! For those of us in the UAE, it was supposed to be the year of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ with Expo 2020 Dubai. But early last year we saw the world completely change, with borders being closed, new working models and hygiene habits adopted, and people confined within their homes. With Expo 2020 Dubai rescheduled for October 2021 – March 2022, did we end up ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ in 2020 anyway?
It’s interesting to see how quickly the Middle East business world adapted as the pandemic hit and perhaps, we did become more connected than ever before. We have gone from traditional face-to-face coffee meetings, braving the lift queues to meet our clients and candidates in different office towers to all interactions completely moving online. 

In between Zoom quizzes and yelling ‘you’re on mute!’, I have found that it has become easier to interact with candidates and clients (from all over the world) with a simple Microsoft Teams invite or the old-school telephone call. In a survey we ran with our job applicants in the Middle East in 2020, 60% felt that they had the right amount of calls / video meetings during the lockdown.  

Have we already stepped into the 'future of work'? Flexible remote working seems to have been adopted long term by all organizations we have been interacting and working with, and most professionals prefer having the flexibility to choose what working style suits them. 71% said they would like the opportunity to work remotely full time.  

Productivity did not take a hit due to the remote working set up. A majority of 93% of job applicants in the region shared their productivity increased or stayed the same with the implementation of the home office set up or different schedules. 60% also dedicated their time to learning new technical or hard skills. 

About the job market, we remain (cautiously) optimistic and it feels like we're in a good recovery in the Middle East. At Michael Page, we have seen increasing levels of job activity since Q3 2020. Organizations new to the region are connecting with us to look at ways of setting up in the region, and this is perhaps due to the region's response levels to the pandemic as compared to that in Europe or the USA. There are also organizations that managed to navigate their operations during the difficult months of 2020 and now find themselves in a good position to re-evaluate or expand their talent structure within the region. What's more, we are observing good job flow from industries that saw a boom during the pandemic, namely the FMCG, Digital and Healthcare industries.

The busiest markets are Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Qatar has been quietly building up over the last three years and now with Gulf states easing relations with Qatar as of January 2021, this is a country to watch out for. As recruiters, we would encourage professionals to evaluate if they are active job seekers and want to stay on and grow their careers in the region.

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Download our 2021 Middle East Salary Guide & Hiring Insights