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Major Trends Shaping the Future of Work in UAE

Beneath the sky-daring buildings, a global labor hub is brewing in the Gulf. According to Workspace 2023, three key verticals determine major trends shaping the future of work in UAE: modern technology, workplace well-being, and office ergonomics.

This article wishes to help you understand modern corporate trends which affect the UAE labor market. We’ll also project what lurks in the future, while giving companies insightful knowledge to stay relevant in a fast-changing environment.

The Post-COVID Remote Work Revolution

Before COVID happened, there was a rush for office space in the Middle East. The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index report confirms 98% of UAE companies favor a hybrid work model in 2024. When compared to a global Work-From-Home average of 89%, we may start understanding why UAE is the cradle of labor revolution.

Many high traffic cities like Dubai are buzzing with remote workers. Elaine O’Connell, Vice President of Design and Hospitality at DMG Events, confirms that UAE is a textbook example of hybrid working post-COVID.

UAE’s a Rising Tech Giant

According to the Ministry of Economy data, UAE’s non-oil sector contributed 70% to her GDP in 2021. The economy is diversifying, and so should its people professionals!

Rapid advances in technology support a virtual workspace in the UAE. At the core of these innovations is a quest to solve environmental challenges and to satisfy man’s desire for workplace freedom.

The 6 collaborative achievements  highlighted below enable UAE to model the ideal remote workplace to the rest of the world:

i) The world-famous Dubai Science Park, and its significant role in AI development.

ii) Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park raised the world standards of green energy, CSR, and ergonomic workplaces.

iii) Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is a real projection into futuristic workplaces and a model of integrated smart technology in city planning.

iv) The Arab Institution for Science and Technology in Sharjah is a trail-blazer in Robotics.

v) The Centre of Excellence for Applied Research & Training (CERT) leads in both AI and Robotics innovations, further anchoring hybrid workplaces.

vi) The Technology and Innovation Center at Ras Al Khaimah challenges future HR managers to keep pace with fast-morphing, tech-savvy, unhindered, and young workers.

The Dubai AI Roadmap conspires with The UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (2031) to promote research, creativity and innovation in sectors like healthcare, eGovernment, and logistics.

Since 2017, TII partnerships have successfully shattered research ceilings in autonomous systems. In the very near future, stand-alone robots will be using AI to conduct real-time talent market analysis.

The Impact of Mental Health and Work-Life Balance on Productivity

KPMG, in a study, indicates seven out of 10 people in UAE struggle with work-related stress. A staggering 66% of workers experienced burnout in the last 12 months, and Forbes noted 80% of them directly attributed the foul mental state to conditions at their workplace.

Despite the UAE labor law provisions on a 48-hour private worker’s week, a survey among 1,000 people across job categories reveals a different scene. Findings show many people are overworked across the seven emir states!

A positive workplace is a major priority for the UAE National Happiness and Positivity Program. Employees who’re appreciated, motivated, and who work in a healthy environment obviously perform better.

Futuristic Emphasis on Skills Development

Research shows 50% of companies in the UAE grapple with severe skill shortages in crucial areas, hindering their growth and competitiveness.

A Major Shift Towards a Skills-Based Economy

The World Economic Forum insists more than half the UAE workforce requires reskilling by 2025 if they’re to address the knowledge deficit.

The impact of global integration and automation, combined with a deficient education system, contribute to a massive knowledge and skill gap in UAE businesses.

A report by Korn Ferry predicts a talent shortage of 85.2+ million people by 2030. The International Labor Organization puts the current UAE youth unemployability rate at around 26.1%, more than double the global average of 12.8%. There’s an ever-expanding difference between what the labor market demands and the available skills.

Government Support Policies for Innovation, Skill Development, and Entrepreneurship

Reskilling and upskilling are the only viable future-proof strategies for workers in The Emirates. Businesses and individuals who want to transition to new industries, advance their careers, or immunize their skills against job displacement must, therefore, continuously learn and adapt.

Below is the federal government’s input in reskilling and upskilling UAE workers.

  • Innovation Fund

The federal Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund provides start-up funding and supports innovative business diversification in the UAE. Entrepreneurs participating in government programs receive free consultations, mentorship and skill building forums, low interest loans, expedited licenses, patents, project launches, and much more

  • Support Legislation

The Federal Decree- Law (Number 12) of 2023 regulates all public- private partnerships in the UAE. The regulations clearly outline the federal government’s role in supporting innovation and skill building.

  • Incentives

Also, in order to develop local skills, the UAE government aims to incentivize innovation, nurture entrepreneurs, and support research in STEM disciplines.

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

The business world insists on deliberate diversity and tolerance initiatives in the workplace. This is more so relevant in the UAE, with an 80% expatriate population from more than 180 nationalities.

Several adjustments to the UAE Labour Law has seen her rise exponentially in world DEI rankings. The changes include managerial gender quotas, the enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation, and regulatory provision of supplementary resources and training in inclusivity.

Any discriminatory act against workers based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or disability is a criminal offense. Under Article 30 of the Anti-Discrimination Law, employers are prohibited from terminating a woman’s career based on their being pregnant. The UAE strives to empower workers and promote their social inclusion in business organizations.

The Rise of The Gig Economy

The number of registered freelancers in the UAE has increased by 157% from 2020 till August 2023. Freelancing is expected to also take a firm grip of the Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar labor environments.

Hundreds of workers are applying for their 2024 freelance permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) portal as you read this!

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2027, over 75% of organizations in UAE will fully adopt big data, AI, cloud computing, e-commerce, and workforce technologies.

Gig workers in UAE continue to get enhanced labor protection, regulatory support in fair pay and benefits, and serious consideration as a future mode of work.

The gig model traces its origin to cab-hailing and task-oriented service platforms like Uber. The most recent report by McKinsey found that occupations in creativity and knowledge-intensive jobs are among the fastest-growing sectors of the UAE freelance economy.

Adapt, or Be Phased Out!

Wise HR professionals will use the information in this article to strategize, adapt, and rearrange company strategies if they’re to stay relevant in the future.

The Director of Mars (UAE) wraps things up in a succinct statement: Being tech savvy will be an essential skill requirement across all levels, roles and age profiles in future UAE business.

Four Proven Strategies To Stay Relevant in the UAE Job Market

Stay relevant in an ever-changing UAE labor market if you yearn to succeed (number 3 is my personal favorite!)

#1: Lay a Strong Professional Network

Engage with local and global professionals in your field. Leverage online platforms like LinkedIn. Attend industry events and join professional caucuses.

Fact: A recent LinkedIn survey revealed 85% of advertised jobs in the UAE are filled through social networks!

#2: Submerge in Lifelong Learning and Skill Improvement

A continuous professional development keeps you in the loop with market demands and trends. This is the surest path to job-proofing your career!

#3: Create a Solid Personal Brand

Showcase your expertise, achievements, and experience on platforms like LinkedIn. Did you know 92% of recruiters in UAE use social media handles to find the right candidates?

#4: Blend With the Changing Job Market

Non-oil sectors such as renewable energy, blockchain, digital marketing, data science, and AI are constantly issuing new opportunities in the UAE.