Six in 10 fresh graduates want to work in the UAE
August 15th, 2017, Antonia Stockwell

Six in 10 fresh graduates want to work in the UAE

Young job seekers and recent graduates continue to enter the job market in the Middle East and North Africa, competing for entry level jobs very actively. - the Middle East’s #1 Job Site – and YouGov recently conducted a survey entitled “Fresh Graduates in the MENA”, in which nearly six in 10 respondents (58%) said they would relocate to the UAE for job opportunities.

The study also highlighted that more than half of UAE respondents (61%) claim they have found or plan to find their first job through leading online job sites. Further, almost half (49%) claim that they found their first job in less than six months.

Most Attractive Industries

Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents in the UAE said that the most appealing industry for a career is Engineering / Design. This was closely followed by Banking / Finance (20%) and Advertising / Marketing (20%). These findings seem to mirror the views of respondents when it comes to which industries they see hiring the most fresh graduates. A quarter of respondents said that Advertising / Marketing (25%), Banking / Finance (25%), and IT (21%) hire the highest number of fresh graduates in the UAE.

When asked why respondents think these industries employ more fresh graduates compared to others in the UAE, almost half (45%) said that these industries believe fresh graduates have “lower expectation on salary”. This was followed by the fact that fresh graduates can “handle more challenges” (37%) and that they are “more creative” (36%).

Salaries, Benefits, and Job Attributes

The most important factor when selecting a job in the UAE is being passionate about the job itself according to 44% of respondents. Just over one in ten (11%) also said that a well-known organisation was an important factor when selecting a job in the UAE. Another 8% also mentioned “opportunities for career progression” and “competitive salaries” as important attributes.

Salary expectations are varied in the UAE - 30% of respondents say they received or would expect to receive a salary of between USD 751 and 1,500 in their first job. Another 30% said that they received or would expect to receive more than USD 1,501 in their first job. 28% of respondents said they received or expect to receive less than USD 750, while 12% are unsure about their salary expectations.

In addition to a basic salary, other benefits that respondents expect include personal medical insurance (42%), Housing allowance/ Company provided accommodation (42%), annual air ticket (40%), and transportation allowance (36%).

Choosing a Field of Study

One in four respondents residing in the UAE (25%) have studied Engineering. Business / Commerce / Economics (20%), Accounting / Finance (16%), Sciences (9%), and Information Technology (8%) were also among the most popular subjects.

Over two thirds of fresh graduates (69%) in the UAE said that they considered the availability of jobs in their potential field before deciding their major. Whereas less than one in three (31%) said they did not consider job availability prior to their decision.

Respondents were asked if they believe they would have fared better in the job market with a different major or a different school. While 36% said no, over one in four (28%) said that they would have fared better with a different major and 25% said that they would have fared better with a different major and a different school.

When it came to whether there was a link between the field respondents studied and where they are employed, surprisingly, half of fresh graduates who are employed (50%) said that they were not employed in their field of study. The other half does, in fact, work in their field of study.

The Role of Higher Education

The majority (80%) of fresh graduates in the UAE said that they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the quality of higher education they had received. Only 10% said that they were somewhat or very dissatisfied and the rest of respondents (10%) were neutral.

When it came to the role of higher education in preparing students for their industry of choice, 31% of UAE respondents said their university helped “completely”, 18% said it helped to “a large extent”, and 31% said it helped “but only to some extent”. 16% said their university didn’t help them in this aspect, while the rest of the respondents (4%) didn’t give their opinion.

41% of fresh graduates in the UAE claimed that they received help from their Institute to find job opportunities during their time as college students, while 59% said they didn’t receive any support.

For those who did receive help, the most common ways were career fairs (39%), job announcements (35%), help with CV and Cover Letter writing (34%), and open days / campus recruitment (32%).

Challenges Faced by Fresh Graduates

‘Finding a job’ emerged as the top challenge (68%) fresh graduates face in the UAE, this was followed by ‘discovering what we want to do in life’ (44%) and ‘saving money’ (33%).

When respondents were searching for a job the greatest challenges they faced included the fact that ‘employers were looking for candidates with previous work experience’ (52%), followed by ‘knowing how to approach the job search effectively’ (39%) and knowing ‘where to find relevant jobs’ (36%).

Suhail Masri, Vice President of Employer Solutions,, said:”Fresh graduates seeking to secure their first job should take advantage of the numerous entry-level jobs, internships, as well as information about the job market that regularly provides. Today, and on any given day, over 10,000 jobs are available on our job site, nearly 5,000 of which are suitable for young job seekers and fresh graduates. For more than 17 years, we have been successfully designing solutions at to help employers find the most suitable young talent and help job seekers highlight their skills and gain more knowledge on how to approach the job search effectively.”

Respondents also said that industries are hesitant in hiring fresh graduates because they may lack the needed experience (75%) as well as skills (36%).

Respondents commented on what skills they believe are required to excel in the workplace, with more than half (58%) saying communication skills. This was followed by computer skills (45%), academic and technical skills (39%), and flexibility / adaptability to change (32%).

Yet despite these challenges for fresh graduates In the UAE, most of them are reportedly highly skilled. Almost all respondents (96%) rated themselves as “good” or “very good” when it comes to communication skills. 91% rated themselves as “good” or “very good” in flexibility/adaptability to change, and 89% rated themselves as “good” or “very good” in computer skills.

“Although fresh graduates are reportedly highly content with the quality of education they received, it seems that their institutions fell a bit short on preparing them for the job search, “ said Anjali Chhabra, Senior Research Manager, YouGov. “The survey shows that fresh graduates are finding a lot of value in searching for a job online as they look for opportunities in a competitive and crowded job market.”

Looking at the future, more than a third (38%) of respondents say they will keep looking until they find a job. 31% said that they will start looking for a job in another industry / job role of their choice. 16% will start looking for a job no matter what industry / job role it is.

More than six in 10 respondents (63%) are optimistic about their career and educational opportunities for their generation compared to their parents’ generation. Whereas only 13% claimed that they are not optimistic and don’t believe that their generation has better opportunities. 17% were neutral in response to this question while the rest didn’t comment.

Data for the 2017 ‘Fresh Graduates in the MENA Survey’ was collected online from June 21st to July 12th, 2017. Results are based on a sample of 1,865 respondents. Countries that participated are the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and others.