By Leith Ramsay, Managing Director, PageGroup Middle East

The Middle East region and the professional labour market continues to be unpredictable with 2017 providing  numerous challenges. At the time of writing (November 2017), we have seen continued instability at country  and regional level courtesy of multiple issues / actions; a silver lining being the rise in oil to nearly $65 a barrel.

This continued instability has slowed decision making which we thought would actually improve the market  beginning Q4 17 and into 2018. The majority of our clients now believe that 2018 will be a continuation of the  current market, albeit 2017 is the “bottoming out” phase completed.

Drilling down into individual sectors, it is pleasing to see Financial Services, Real Estate and Energy all hiring  again. Conversely, Retail and Consumer Goods are still on ‘go slow’ mode, while technology, healthcare and  education investment is steady. Government spending in Abu Dhabi has re-commenced and Saudi Arabia’s  transformation of the public sector is in full swing – with numerous entities created to deliver the National  Transformation Program 2020 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Our view is that over the last 2 years, public and private sectors have taken all the necessary action to  streamline their organisations and are now ready for the next period of growth in the region. The timing of  decision making will continue to be effected as regional events (out of their control) unfold.

Finally, salaries and bonuses tend to be classified into pre 2015 and post 2015 (in reference to the oil price  plunge in Q4 2015). Candidates now accept that figures are different in the new era – there is not as much  push back. The challenge for all organisations entering 2018 is how to manage annual increases, given the  introduction of 5% VAT. The general view will be that 5% VAT is still a lot less than the high level of personal  income tax payable in most countries.

Click here to see our 2018 Middle East Salary Survey.