The requirement for IT professionals in the UAE is rapidly growing as employers respond to increasing cyber threats and a consumer shift to mobile and evolving web technologies.

That’s the assessment of a new study by GulfTalent, which focused on the UAE’s IT job market. Conducted over five years, the study revealed an increased demand for data security professionals and network engineers in particular.

Worldwide ransomware attacks, such as Locky in 2016 and WannaCry in 2017, as well as the newly emerging NotPetyam have put businesses on alert. Studies from KPMG show that a third of all UAE organisations suffered cyber security breaches in 2015.

Despite security being such a pressing issue, the most sought-after IT professionals in the UAE are software developers, with a focus on app developers for Android and iOS devices, which make up 20 per cent of all available software developer posts.

The GulfTalent study also found a lack of available IT talent in the country; organisations are recruiting from abroad, with four in every ten vacancies filled by foreigners in the first five months of 2017. Talent is being brought in from neighbouring Gulf countries, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, India, the UK and USA. Most new talent (97 per cent) is experienced and holds a degree, with only three per cent of UAE IT posts going to fresh graduates. Technical certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and ITIL are among the most desired by UAE employers.

Analysis by GulfTalent showed that the salaries of IT professionals in the UAE are comparable to those in top European markets such as the UK, though still significantly lower than the US. The average annual take-home earnings of a software developer in the UAE is US$29,500, compared with US$31,000 in the UK.

Cooper Fitch, a UAE-based jobs and recruitment consultancy, is on the brink of releasing its half-year review of salaries, and says it sees salary expectations for the technology sector remaining stable as predicted in its Salary Guide 2017, which showed growth of between four and five per cent.

Dale McKerrell head of IT at Cooper Fitch, said: “There has been a notable increase in the demand for cyber security. The rise in demand is related to the Wannacry malware security breach. This created a global awareness of the need for security professionals. Consequently, there has also been an increase in the demand for international candidates to develop the knowledge and skillsets in the technology sector in the Middle East.

“The demand for VAT technology has also increased dramatically. We see organisations who need to update their current Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in order to become compliant with VAT related requirements. Ultimately, this has furthered the demand for attracting international talent in the Middle East,” he added.

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