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Press Release

UAE businesses plan 4% pay rise in 2022 as pay freezes disappear and optimism returns

September 14, 2021

Compensation Strategy & Design|Employee Experience|Ukupne nagrade

DUBAI, September 14, 2021 — Employers in the UAE plan to give their staff an average annual pay rise of 4% in 2022, amidst signs of strength in the labour market following the turmoil of the global pandemic, research by Willis Towers Watson revealed today.

The rise is an improvement on the 3% average increase paid this year. It comes as the proportion of businesses expecting to freeze pay altogether is set to tumble from 15% this year to almost zero (0.6%) in 2022.

316 UAE firms took part in the worldwide study about salary budgets and recruitment by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company.

Some industries plan to be more generous than others. Average rises in 2022 are set to be higher in the medical technology (4.4% rise), pharmaceutical (4.3%), and manufacturing (4.3%) sectors. Workers in insurance (3.2%), business consulting (3.2%), and energy and natural resources (3.3%), are due to fare less well.

The war for talent has continued during the pandemic. In 2021, UAE businesses tried to motivate and retain the top performers by giving them a pay rise that was 2.7 times greater than for staff on average performance ratings.

Laurent Leclère, Senior Reward Leader for the Middle East, said: "Pay budgets have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, but employers are showing clear signs of growing optimism, and they are reflecting that in their plans for higher pay rises. In recent months our conversations with HR leaders and clients have revealed a more upbeat sense of recovery and growth. These are positive signals in a labour market that has come under heavy stress during the global pandemic.”

Over half (53%) of UAE firms said their business outlook is ‘ahead’ or ‘well ahead’ of where they thought it would be, while just 3% said it was below expectations.

And 26% plan to recruit more staff in the coming 12 months, while 10% expect to cut headcount. Over half (57%) of firms that are recruiting said they are trying to fill roles in sales, while technical skilled trades (43%) and engineering (30%) are also hotspots. The least active recruitment areas are in HR (3%), finance (4%), and marketing (20%).

Laurent Leclère added: "It’s significant that, across many different industry sectors, there has been a real focus on attracting and retaining digital roles. This is largely driven by changes in consumer behaviour since the pandemic started. Digital roles will keep commanding enhanced pay packages as we expect trends that started during COVID to continue or even accelerate.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Salary Budget Planning Report is compiled by Willis Towers Watson’s Data Services Practice. The survey was conducted in June 2021. Approximately 23,000 sets of responses were received from companies across 130 countries worldwide. 316 organizations in the UAE responded.
  2. The report summarises the findings of Willis Towers Watson’s annual survey on salary movement and reviews practices as a means of helping companies with their compensation planning for 2021 and beyond.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets.

We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals.

Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance.

Together, we unlock potential.

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