Professionals working in the Gulf have been hit hard by the downturn, with almost two-thirds not receiving any pay hike and one in ten losing their job this year, says a survey by online recruitment firm GulfTalent.com.

In its fifth annual survey of labour market trends in the region, the survey says that average salary increases across the six Gulf countries over the 12-month period to August 2009 fell sharply to 6.2 per cent compared with 11.4 per cent over the same period last year.

The drop was most severe in the UAE, which fell from 13.6 per cent to just 5.5 per cent this year, largely due to its heavy exposure to the real estate sector.

Kuwait also saw a significant drop in pay rises from 10.1 to 4.8 per cent, after the value of its financial investments collapsed.

Sixty per cent of professionals surveyed did not receive any pay increase this year at all, compared with only 33 percent last year.

On job losses across the Gulf, the report said 10 per cent or one in ten professionals was made redundant. This was highest in the UAE at 16 per cent and lowest in Oman at 6 per cent.

On a sector basis, real estate had the most drastic cuts, with 15 per cent losing their jobs.

Though some expatriate professionals who lost their jobs have returned home, the study found that many have been re-deployed elsewhere in the region.

In particular, many have shifted from Dubai to neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Doha or Saudi Arabia.

Massive spending by the Saudi government on infrastructure projects this year has helped maintain economic activity. Pay rises there stood at 6.5 per cent, compared with 9.8 per cent last year, the smallest fall in the region.

In terms of job categories, audit professionals received the largest pay rises at 7.5 per cent as demand for their services surged following the collapse of major global institutions last year.

With recruitment no longer a priority for businesses, human resource professionals received the region’s lowest pay increases at just 4.8 per cent.

On employment outlook next year, the study predicts some pick-up in hiring activity, but warns that recruitment volumes will not reach the levels seen during the boom for quite some time.

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