The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a fast-paced frontier and emerging market with 90% of the working population comprised of expatriates from all around the world.
Travel back just a decade, the UAE was seen by most as a hardship posting and typically considered a short-term career stop. Now, large portions of the working population enjoy bountiful expat contracts, entitling them to packages and perks that could include:
- Weighted salaries (tax free)
- Company housing
- Domestic helpers
- Company cars
- Fuel allowances
- Private health insurance
- Life insurance
- Multiple travel tickets home
- Gym/beach club membership
- Children’s education costs
- Relocation costs to and from the country
- Pension contributions
- End of service payments
With increasing global recognition and a stunning pace of development, the UAE quickly evolved from a hardship posting, into a destination of choice for many. Employees were staying longer and many were putting down roots for the long term.
Roll the clocks forward to today, we find the majority of employees (expats) on local contracts, having elected to transition in order to stay, moved employment in country, or in more recent times, by simply joining the UAE workforce on a local contract from the outset.
During this process of market maturation (that has combined and coincided with certain economic challenges), we are seeing widespread pull back in salaries/packages and perks, the trimming and turning over long-standing management roles, as well as removing the inflated incomes and overly generous perks of the past. There is some erosion of core benefits, for example, the downgrading of healthcare plans.
In the current climate, when it comes to staffing, employers could make the mistake of being complacent, but all must be on their guard as the pool of talent in the UAE is not deep.
During these times of change, the innovators will gain ground while others battle with the basics and manage hangovers from the past. Those pressing the advantage and listening to their staff are introducing perks such as:
- Flexible working hours
- Enhanced maternity and paternity leave
- Part time opportunities
- Discount and affinity programs
- In-house educational support/exam support
- Healthy living and wellness events
- Team activities and group workouts
- Provision of healthy snacks
- Financial health checks and access to advisory services
- Emotional counselling and support
- Positive lifestyle benefits and awards