The Arab Spring

MacDonald and Company on politics and employment

– current effects on the real estate and construction employment market

Director of recruitment consultancy MacDonald and Company, Ben Waddilove, explains the impact of political unrest on the regional job market.

As we move into the beginning of Q2 there seems to no real clear resolution to the unrest that has been taking place in the wider Middle East region since January.

It is proving difficult to assess the likely overall outcome of these events as we make our projections for the next financial year, but the focus of economic activity is likely to be on a much smaller geographical region at least in the short term.

The prospect of widespread sectarian clashes appears remote at this stage. It has been amazing to witness the unprecedented and rapid spread of demonstrations since the first reports emerged from Tunisia in January, aided by the advent of ‘social media’ and the ease of mass communication for the younger generation.

To a certain degree there is more high quality talent now available and this is resulting in stiffer candidate competition for roles”

MacDonald and Company has been established here in our Dubai office since January 2006 and we have witnessed the extraordinary ‘real estate story’ first hand through the placing of many real estate professionals and their families from the US, UK, Europe, Australasia and the Far East, and within the MENA region. We have developed some very strong client relationships which have ensured a continuing flow of business for us.

From 2005 to 2008 the flow of human capital was mainly from established property markets intheWestandAustralasiatotheUAE. Since the end of 2008 we have been much more active in the wider region, recruiting for clients in Libya, the Yemen, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan, and of course Abu Dhabi. I have been fortunate enough to travel to visit clients in most of these places. We saw a direct movement from Dubai to all of these other locations.

The focus of economic activity is likely to be on a much smaller geographical region at least in the short term”

Now, we are witnessing a complete change from this scenario and actually noticing a number of candidates being repatriated to Dubai. We are receiving increasing numbers of contacts from senior executives in North Africa and a growing number of development and project directors have repatriated to the UK and Europe from Libya.

To a certain degree there is more high quality talent now available and this is resulting in stiffer candidate competition for roles.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi normally benefit from any regional troubles and we are hearing that demand for short term letting of residential property and commercial space is increasing in the UAE, as Dubai in particular is perceived as the safe haven in the region with an excellent lifestyle quality. There has also been anecdotal evidence of repatriation of funds to the UAE for this same reason.

We recently conducted an international Salary Survey Comparison and collated data from all of our regional Salary Surveys in the UK, Europe, Asia, South Africa and MENA. Interestingly the Average Salary is still significantly higher in the Middle East region and this still carries significant weight in individual’s decisions on preferred employment locations. We are still receiving considerable numbers of contacts from individuals wishing to enter or re-enter the employment market here. Job satisfaction levels remain fairly consistent throughout the various regions.

The longer term economic outlook must surely be positive for the Arab world in general as the transition process continues. This will inevitably take time and we expect a steady period in recruitment over the next few months.

The oil producing nations are still benefiting from the high oil price, it is vital that output and production keeps this from escalating much further otherwise this will have a dampening effect on world economic growth and cause inevitable inflationary pressures.

The geographical focus for Macdonald and Company will be much more specific in the short term working with clients that are consulting on and delivering projects in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and particularly Qatar, due to the ‘World Cup effect’.

We are still generally optimistic about the real estate sector and view the current situation as a transitional period during the general recovery in business activity from the low point of 2009.

MacDonald & Company

MacDonald and Company is the leading professional recruitment consultancy to the property industry and built environment.

The company provides recruitment consultancy services in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia and has a sole focus on the property and construction industries.

The firm has helped many employees to develop rewarding careers and has assisted many employers in sourcing and retaining high-calibre talent through a team of experts that share a large international database.

MacDonald and Company has successfully expanded with offices in London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Johannesburg. Clients include leading property developers, consultancies, governmental, banks and financial institutions.

Founded in 1994 in the UK, MacDonald & Company is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Preferred Recruitment Partner.

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