The forum is discussing internal mobility as a way of providing better bargaining rights to workers while benefiting economies of the GCC countries. Picture for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Atiq-ur-Rehman/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Hiring in the UAE and the rest of the Middle East region remained scarce during the first three months of the year, with the latest job index registering a double-digit decline in vacancies compared to the same period in 2016.

The UAE’s Monster Employment Index, which measures online recruitment activity using real-time vacancy postings on a number of career portals, was down 47 per cent in March from the year-ago level, suggesting a slowdown in hiring by companies across industries.

Released on Tuesday, the index indicated that all businesses, with the exception of those in one industry, aren’t hiring more than they did last year.

Recruitment activity is quite limited in companies in the banking and financial services industry, which  posted the biggest drop in recruitment, at 42 per cent, as well as in the information and technology, and telecommunications sector, down 27 per cent, and in retail, trade and logistics, down 26 per cent.

Hiring by companies in the production, manufacturing, automotive and ancillary industry, as well as those in the chemicals, plastic, rubber, paints, fertilizer and pesticides business, has likewise dropped by 4 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.

The only companies that are doing exceptionally well in terms of recruitment are those that are in the consumer goods industry.

This includes organisations dealing with fast-moving consumer goods, “food and packaged food,” home appliances, garments, textiles, leather, gem and jewellery. Overall, companies within this sector registered a 33 per cent increase in online job postings.

Topping the list of occupations – or candidates - that are highly sought after are those that fall under the purchase, logistics and supply chain category.

“The consumer goods industry and procurement, logistics, supply chain occupations are continuing to do well in the UAE,” said Sanjay Modi, Managing Director, Monster.com, Asia Pacific and Middle East.

“These are complementary findings, as purchase, logistics, supply chain professionals are needed to help make consumer goods available to consumers, therefore, the results suggest that consumer confidence remains positive and the appetite for consumer goods is still high,” Modi added.

A number of businesses has put a lid on payroll expenditures, freezing recruitment and imposing job cuts in the process, amid low oil prices and uncertainty in the global markets.

There have been various forecasts claiming that firms will start hiring this year and that job cuts will slow down. Staff reductions, however, haven’t stopped completely, with companies like First Abu Dhabi Bank reported  by Reuters to have trimmed its staff size following the merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank.

The UAE’s 47 per cent decline in job postings is the highest in the Middle East.  Employment opportunities in Egypt are also almost as scarce, with the country’s hiring index down by 45 per cent.

Recruitment also dropped in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by 28 per cent, 25 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.

Oman and Qatar recorded the least amount of hiring decline, at 15 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.