The labour market in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi's labour market
Updated 2021-11-10 08:15

With a relatively small local population, for the past few decades Abu Dhabi has relied strongly on the expat workforce to build and develop its economy. Expats came to Abu Dhabi for the abundance of professional and business opportunities and have formed an active international community in the region. 

In recent years, however, the number of job options for expats has begun to decrease.

Part of this is due to the slowdown in economic growth — and partly due to new Emiratisation laws in the UAE that require employers to hire more Emiratis.

Still, Abu Dhabi remains a popular emirate in the UAE for both tourism and long-term stays.

Leading industries: energy, construction, real estate

Dubai and Abu Dhabi continuously build, which is why employment in the construction sector accounts for 30 per cent of the total workforce in the country. Real estate and other sectors follow with 4.4 per cent and 3.1 per cent.

Construction and real estate lead in jobs creation for both expats and locals. Together they absorb 46 per cent of the labour force in the UAE. While Khaleej Times reports a decline in the industries, they still hold top spots. With continuous modernisation and building residential towers and commercial ones, most expats in the country are employed in this sector.

Natural resources (petroleum and natural gas) continue to play an important part in the emirate's economy — and oil companies remain big employers of expats in the UAE.

With that Abu Dhabi is investing a lot of time and effort into diversifying its economy. A lot of investment is going into developing tourism, trade and food manufacturing.

Rapid growth for the technology sector

Technology-related occupations in the UAE experienced the most growth in 2018 with a whopping 25% in the first three quarters of the year. This growth is fueled by the rapid digitalisation of businesses as well as its digital transformation, in general, such as Sharjah's USD 6.5 billion Aljada Smart City.

The Robert Half 2019 Salary Guide mentions that the Middle East is attracting digital talents because of its retail industry who are undergoing rapid modernisation. Packages are also attractive in the said industry, and because of the rapid growth, 37% of organisations are finding it difficult to hire qualified talent to remain competitive. UAE business leaders have also taken into top priority the digital transformation roles to help them with digitisation and modernisation plans.

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