Professionals in Saudi to see biggest salary hikes in the region this year
Now Reading
Professionals in Saudi to see biggest salary hikes in the region this year

Professionals in Saudi to see biggest salary hikes in the region this year

Sectors such as IT, manufacturing, logistics, finance, banking and education will see an improvement in the job market


Professionals working in Saudi Arabia will receive the highest salary increases in the Middle East in 2019, a new report has found.

Salaries in the kingdom will grow by 2 per cent on average across all fields, according to the annual salary survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters.

That compares with an average wage hike of 1 per cent across the Middle East.

The rush to hire “good-quality Gulf candidates” will create increased movement, especially in Saudi Arabia, having a positive effect on salaries being offered to attract and retain local skills, the report stated.

Jason Grundy, Robert Walters country head – Middle East said: “The job market in Saudi Arabia will continue to be busy for government roles; we expect the private sector to follow suit and recover in 2019. Sectors such as IT, manufacturing, logistics, finance, banking and education will be key benefactors.”

The report also found that salary increases are being affected by the roll out of nationalisation programmes across the Middle East.

“Companies across the region will offer attractive expatriate packages for business-critical roles only, as the focus on hiring local talent increases,” it said.

Grundy explained: “The growing demand for nationals will continue to dominate the market as many companies aim to comply with nationalisation legislation. As a result, local market knowledge will be a key differentiator for all professionals across the region.

“In 2019, demand will increase in the Middle East for government sector related roles – notably IT, legal, finance, banking and HR. Meanwhile, demand for legal professionals is expected to remain steady across the Gulf.”

The report also highlighted recruitment trends across different sectors in the region.

Accounting and finance

The UAE will see improvement in the jobs market, primarily driven by recovering oil prices, the active trade and tourism environments and a pick-up in investment ahead of Expo 2020 in Dubai, the report stated.

“We expect that demand will be high for financial analysts, management accountants, business controllers, finance managers, chief accountants and project accountants in 2019. We will also see a number of roles being created within compliance and risk,” it explained.

In Saudi, strict Saudisation policies will mean that firms will look to reduce their expatriate headcount in favour of locals who have international experience. “Saudi national hiring has doubled in 2018 and we expect this trend will continue into 2019,” said Robert Walters.

In Bahrain, the implementation of VAT in the beginning of 2019 will increase the number of tax manager roles, with large companies and the ‘Big 4’ all competing for similar types of candidates, it added.

Banking and financial services

Banks in the UAE have many leasing arrangements that will fall under the scope of the new IFRS 16 standard that came into effect on January 1, 2019.

“All elements of a bank, including branches, ATMs, IT infrastructure and outsourcing arrangements, will have to be assessed to evaluate the impact on their financial statements, operations and capital requirements. As a result of this extra workload, we expect an increase the number of technical finance roles in the first half of 2019,” said the report.

The Basel III amendments to credit and operational risk are also likely to be implemented in the UAE. The methodology to calculate the amended numbers will require adjustments to systems as well as collection of additional data requirements, thus increasing recruitment needs.

“While many salary groups across the industry sectors will remain steady, initial indications are that we may see modest increases in key corporate governance roles within the GCC as demand outstrips supply,” the report added.


As most industries have embarked on a digital transformation journey, those with experience in large digital projects will have more opportunities – especially in the banking and retail industry.

Information security is another key area of hiring and those with experience in robotics, AI and machine learning “will be highly sought after, especially those from North America and Europe”, the report stated.

At the junior end of the market, “candidates with a strong mix of interpersonal and technical skills were consistently in demand”, it found.

Senior technology professionals can expect salary increases of around 10- 15 per cent.


Recruitment activity and movement will increase, although legal teams will not see “significant expansion”, the report stated.

Relatively high turnover rates will see more roles opening up for professionals. Sectors that will be hiring in 2019 will be energy (oil and gas), disputes and construction.

While salaries have been the key focus for lawyers when seeking a new role, younger professionals are now also seeking flexibility, career progression and team culture.

Marketing and retail

Demand for specific operational skills in marketing will rise especially in sectors such as beauty cosmetics, FMCG and F&B.

In 2019, salaries should remain the same with emphasis placed on attractive commission schemes for all sales roles, the report found.


“We expect that 2019 will be a slight improvement on 2018,” the report stated.

Demand for sales professionals in sectors such as technology will to grow while FMCG will remain stagnant.

Salaries are expected to remain the same, with only a marginal improvement to packages.


Scroll To Top