Dubai: The UAE’s job market is expected to get a short-term boost from Dubai’s winning the Expo 2020, according to industry experts, with some predicting a return to the emirate’s pre-2008 days.

Roman Weidlich, director at Towers Watson Middle East, said that he expects higher competition for talent “that could to a certain extend resemble the pre-2008 labour dynamics, including higher employee turnover and spike in salaries.”

“From the longer-term perspective, Expo 2020 will help improve the UAE and the Middle East’s image worldwide. This will increase the regions’ attractiveness and ability to hire expatriate talent,” Weidlich said.

Expo 2020, which will run for six months, is expected to bring in many expatriates that are looking for work. Over the next five years, an estimated 200,000 jobs will be created, but Larisa Muravska, a partner at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, says it is difficult to determine where those jobs are coming from.

“It may not be linked to 2020; it may be linked to business plans,” she said. The jobs will be created will be in the construction, real estate, hospitality, aviation, retail and services sectors. Both low-level and professional jobs will be in demand, according to Muravska.

The UAE has already seen a healthy job growth over the past year as the economy began to recover, The economy suffered a sharp downturn in 2008, which led many expatriates working in the UAE to lose their jobs and leave the country, but helped by tourism and a recovery in its real estate market, more expatriates have turned to the UAE for work.


Healthy increase

“From January to October 2013 compared to the same time in 2012, we have seen a healthy increase in job numbers that runs into double-digit percentage growth,” Chris Greaves, managing director for the Gulf region at Hays, a recruitment firm, said.

Guy Rickett, CEO of Cazar, a recruitment solutions provider, said he expects hiring to get a boost “in the next 12 months,” as a result of business confidence from the Expo.

Rickett points out that hiring will slow down afterward before it picks up again in three years’ time, and some jobs created for Expo 2020 will not exist after the event ends, Muravska adds.

“The maintenance jobs for [Expo-related] infrastructure will stay to commercialise the infrastructure; [for instance] an exhibition hall can be reused to run events,” Muravska said.

Similarly, Rickett said that he expects a “fall off [of some jobs] immediately after Expo,” but does not expect it to be significant, since “the economy is robust enough and people are smart enough to plan for that.”

Companies looking for labourers will most likely turn to traditional markets, such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, while those targeting professional jobseekers are expected to turn to Europe and Asia Pacific, according to experts.

Rickett said that some firms might recruit highly educated Emiratis who are living abroad.

The influx of expatriates in the UAE will also have an impact on real estate prices and housing supply, according to Simon Williams, chief economist for the Middle East at HSBC.

“The UAE has coped with large increases in its expatriate population in the past, but the adjustment can be difficult and takes time. If the 2003-2008 experience is any guide, the initial response is likely to be a sharp increase in rents and real estate prices, followed by significant increases in housing supply later as the market adjusts to rising demand,” he told Gulf News in an e-mailed statement.