Dubai:  Even with the current overflow of jobseekers, some headhunters are having difficulty filling a vacancy. They say the talent hunt in the UAE has become very challenging, especially when it comes to hiring workers from certain countries.

Talent crunch has always been a concern for recruiters.While some are quick to lay the blame on mismatched skills, others point to higher salary expectations of applicants. Jobseekers, on the other hand, gripe about the lack of employment opportunities.

Naukrigulf, a job site focusing on the Middle East employment market, has recently polled recruiters and consultants in the UAE to find out if companies are still experiencing manpower crunch.

About 64 per cent confirmed that the problem remains and will continue in the next six months. More than a third (35 per cent) of recruiters face more difficulty when they hire for middle management positions, while 44 per cent struggle to attract Asian talent. .

Recruitment specialists say this doesn't mean qualified candidates are in short supply - there aren't just many takers of job offers, Some candidates turn down job offers because they are seeing more opportunities in their own countries and the idea of moving abroad is becoming less of an enticing option.

"Salary [is the] main reason for candidates to turn down a job opportunity," said Annalinde Nickisch, an HR consultant at The Thought Factory.

"The increased unwillingness of moving abroad is predominantly noticed with candidates originating from India as opposed to any other Asian country. The difficulty isn't finding qualified candidates, it is the mismatch of the candidates' salary expectations versus the salary scales that UAE-based employers are willing to offer," said Nickisch,

Nickisch started noticing the trend about two years ago when her company initiated multiple recruitment campaigns across India. In 2014 and 2015, Nickisch said they recruited entry and mid-level assurance professionals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and across various countries in Africa.

Most of the positions offered salaries between Dh8,000 and Dh10,000, plus benefits. However, the offer letter acceptance rate has decreased by a significant margin when compared to the previous years, she said.

“We effectively had to stop recruiting from India because there were a number of applicants that had higher salary expectations. In comparison, recruiting from any other country wasn’t a challenge,” said Nickisch.

The trend isn’t surprising at all, given that job opportunities have recently cropped up in India alone, leading to double-digit salary increments over the past years.

“Likewise, in 2016, India was predicted to have yet another year of double-digit growth in salaries across various industries, making it increasingly unattractive for qualified professionals to move abroad.”

Ibtesam Maraqa, consultant for technical practice (IT, SAP and QHSE) at Morgan McKinley, which specialises in mid to senior level positions, said she did experience difficulty recruiting Asian candidates. But it’s mainly because many job applicants have not been responsive – they could not be reached at the contact number they’ve specified on their CV.

“In other cases, I have not seen difficulty using our extended resources. Employers look for those professionals given their work attitude and loyalty as well and an added advantage of the value of their salary packages given the cost of living back home. They have a higher perception of value of money,” she said.

Ahmed from Pakistan has been in Dubai for ten years now and he’s currently looking for a new job in administration or accounts.

Out of the 500 positions he has applied for so far, he got called for an interview on two or three occasions. He did get some job offers, but Ahmed said he had to turn them down because the salaries were just "too low".

“[I’m expecting] around Dh5,000 to Dh6,000 [salary a month],” he said. The problem isn’t just about  mismatched salary expectations. Opportunities, in general, are also on a decline, making competition stiffer than ever.

“It's extremely difficult to find a job in UAE because most of the jobs are immediately filled up with the relatives or references of the serving employees," he said.

Another jobseeker from Bangladesh, who has been on a hunt since he graduated three years ago, said he received only one job offer, and it was for a temporary role.

"[There are] limited opportunities for freshers and less experienced [candidates]," he said. 

Recruitment specialists have confirmed that hiring activity has indeed slowed down, with the number of jobs on offer dropping by 12 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to a year ago. According to Morgan McKinley, the number of professionals seeking jobs grew by 31 per cent in the first quarter compared to the last three months of 2015.

“The general feeling is that it’s a tough market out there, but then again, it’s a tough market everywhere at the moment,” Trefor Murphy, managing director for Middle East and North Africa at Morgan McKinley, said earlier.