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Middle East Slowdown Brings UK Focus

It's very hard to give an accurate reflection of the Middle East construction market as the trade press in that region rarely print a negative story. However, having spent nearly 10 years recruiting in the MENA region I'm hearing more and more negativity from people on the ground when it comes to the local construction market.

In recent months I've seen an increase in the number of people that are coming to me having been made redundant, have been paid late (or not at all) by their employer or are genuinely fearing that their position is at risk.

Recruitment has certainly been down in the Middle East region for the last 12 months. There's a combination of reasons for this and they're not all to do with a slowdown in work. There are changing practices and trends to do with recruitment in the region which are equally as much of an issue for us recruiting in the Middle East region.

However, there's no question to me that the recruitment for expat construction professionals in the Middle East region has reached a plateau over recent times.

Qatar in particular looks worst affected. Recent political issues in the country and a consistently low oil price have meant that many projects have seen their design scaled back and in some instances the projects have been cancelled all together. Despite having a strong core of work for the 2022 World Cup including stadiums and major infrastructure improvements, many of the none core work planned in Qatar is being affected.

News also came out of the region this week that UK Construction giants Carillion are withdrawing much of their Middle East business, including their Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt businesses. There was no mention of the Dubai business which was recently awarded a large contract on as part of the Dubai Expo development.

One contact in the region told me recently that many western contractors are now losing out on projects to cheaper local and international contractors in the region.

It's for many of the above reasons that myself and Maxim Recruitment have been diversifying our focus over the last couple of years. Whilst we continue to work with our historic, reputable clients in the Middle East region, it has been important for us to look at new markets where construction is robust and nowhere appears to be any busier than the UK over the last 12 - 24 months.

We now have an incredibly active UK team doing great work with a wide range of clients in the UK. We are particularly strong in the claims and disputes sector as well as traditional Quantity Surveying roles with Contractors and Consultancy Firms.

As we spend more time developing the UK market, our client base is growing both geographically and in terms of the variety of companies we are working with. This includes the major blue chip employers through to more specialist regional contractors and consultancies for candidates who prefer to work for smaller and medium sized businesses.

With the summer holidays here and kids finishing school for another year, now could be the perfect time to talk to us about your options for returning back to the UK in the near future.

It's worth checking our website for our latest UK vacancies. If you have been affected by any of the issues in the Middle East region recently and considering a return to the UK, we'd welcome hearing from you for a confidential chat about the type of roles that may be available to you.

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Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant

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