The hiring outlook for the UAE’s healthcare and life sciences sector is extremely positive as it continues to recover from Covid-19 headwinds on the back of economic support measures and government initiatives such as an expansion of the Golden Visa programme.
“This is thanks to UAE government initiatives and investments in the sector as well as the location, how the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled and the opportunity for professionals and investors to obtain a Golden Visa,” says Chris Atkinson, managing partner of Kinetic Business Solutions, which sources professionals for pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
“We are seeing life science companies open regional offices here and have helped quite a few companies headquartered in Turkey, Israel and other countries set up their teams here since mid-2021. We believe the UAE is primed to become a hub for life science companies.”
The Covid-19 pandemic placed the global healthcare sector under immense pressure but this also opened up a range of employment prospects for certain segments of the industry.
Salaries for workers in the UAE’s life sciences sector, which covers pharmaceuticals and health care, registered the highest increase in 2021, growing by 4.5 per cent compared with 2020, says HR consulting company Mercer’s Total Remuneration Survey, which polled more than 500 companies.
The UAE’s pharmaceutical market is expected to grow by 27 per cent between 2021 and 2025 as the country pushes to become a regional pharmaceutical centre, Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ said in a February report. The size of the local pharmaceutical market is expected to hit $4.7 billion in value by 2025, up three times the value recorded in 2011, the report found.
As of 2021, the UAE had 23 pharmaceutical manufacturing centres and was producing more than 2,500 medicines in country, Kinetic Business Solutions reports.
“The global healthcare and life sciences landscape is changing as patient care delivery is fundamentally evolving to become more virtual, ambulatory, at home and value-based,” says Deepa Sud, chief executive of Plum Jobs, a Dubai executive search consultancy.
“We are seeing an increase in the hiring of related roles and this sector will continue to grow. Employees are favouring the fast-paced environment of biotech compared with traditional Big Pharma.”
What positions are in demand?
The most in-demand positions in the UAE healthcare sector include nurses, laboratory technicians and doctors/physicians, while regional sales managers and marketing managers are sought after in the life sciences industry, recruitment consultancy Michael Page says in its 2022 salary guide.
Meanwhile, roles that are in demand in the Emirates’ life sciences industry include country and general managers, commercial directors, sales managers, key account managers, marketing managers, medical representatives, product specialists, human resources and finance managers, data from Kinetic Business Solutions show.
As the sector evolves, they will transition more into partnerships and technology, leading to a greater demand for talent in these areas, Ms Sud says.
“Providers will need to establish strong partnerships with pharma, medical technology and insurance players to provide a cohesive patient experience that delivers high-quality care while maintaining a competitive edge,” she says.
“You will see a greater need for strong capabilities in leadership, strategy and change management.”
What skills are employers looking for?
Employers are seeking candidates with experience in regional sales and distributor management, who have the ability to control and influence distribution partners to positively affect sales, inventory and top-line revenue, Michael Page reports.
Project management skills are also sought after by employers since the Covid-19 pandemic pushed healthcare companies, including hospitals and laboratories, to design and carry out new projects in a short period of time, the consultancy firm says.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies in the UAE are looking for people capable of communicating with the authorities and supporting them in defining the right prices, it adds.
“Aside from the technical skills and qualifications required, the top skills sought by life science companies in potential hires are local or regional experience, adaptability and flexibility and communication, with multilingual candidates being highly requested,” Mr Atkinson says.
With heavy investment in research and development funding, pharmaceutical and medical devices start-ups and global organisations are hiring candidates with knowledge of product lifecycles and launches, Ms Sud of Plum Jobs says.
“Advances in technology are reducing patient touchpoints and the need for high-volume hospital care as virtual and home-based care delivery are becoming more of a reality,” she says. “As the delivery of care shifts, providers need leadership, project management and technology skills to create delivery ecosystems that integrate both digital and face-to-face models.”
Although the need for care-at-home capabilities are growing significantly, there is a huge gap in the labour market, Ms Sud points out.
Are salaries expected to rise in the healthcare and life science sector?
Experienced life science candidates are in high demand, and employers are increasing salaries and offering extremely competitive packages to secure the best talent for their organisations, Mr Atkinson says.
“Sixty-two per cent of respondents to our salary and employment survey at the end of last year said they had received increases, too, so companies are also taking the right steps to reward and retain staff,” he adds.
Salaries are increasing and life science professionals are receiving an average of 15 per cent to 20 per cent salary increases because of the skills shortage, Ms Sud says.
UAE salary guide 2022
What other benefits can employees expect?
Flexible work has become the norm for many life science companies and they offer this to all levels of employees, Mr Atkinson says.
“More senior life science executives can expect to be offered the following benefits depending on the organisation they are joining: housing, transport, schooling for children and flight allowances,” he adds.
Besides salaries, employees are looking for enhanced healthcare and wellness benefits. Golden visas for healthcare workers has also boosted employee recruitment and retention, Ms Sud says.
Do employers face hiring challenges?
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare organisations have had to rapidly change their operations, address large patient flows and testing as well as manage the backlog of elective surgeries. As a result, healthcare institutions are constantly looking to hire more nurses, Michael Page reports.
Organisations are also now looking to grow and expand their fields of therapeutic coverage to increase revenue streams, which means it is now as important as ever to secure top talent both locally and internationally, says the consultancy.
“Many companies are also looking to hire in large volumes, which presents a challenge to find licensed professionals within the UAE or people who can become licensed in the UAE quickly,” it adds.
“Healthcare professionals will be highly sought after, so organisations need to ensure they have competitive salaries, benefits and a stable onboarding programme to ensure they are able to attract and, more importantly, retain employees.
“Companies are also being more flexible on licence status for nurses, accepting home country licence and bringing them in as assistant nurse for a slightly lower salary, while taking them through the UAE licensing.”
Meanwhile, expansion and market penetration remain the focus for most pharmaceutical or medical device companies within the UAE’s life sciences sector, the recruitment consultancy says.
The Middle East and Africa region remains a key growth area for most companies and this has resulted in the need for strong candidates in sales/business development, market access and regulatory affairs who are required to efficiently work with the authorities, while staying ahead of the competition, Michael Page says.
“With many companies looking to retain their current talent, there is a challenge sourcing candidates locally, pushing many businesses to look internationally,” it adds.
“It is important to ensure to have a clear road map for candidate growth and competitive packages to attract candidate from other companies in the region.”
How much can you expect to be paid in the healthcare and life sciences sector?
- General manager — Dh75,000 (per month)
- Sales director/regional director — Dh65,000
- Regional sales manager — Dh45,000
- Business development manager/area sales manager — Dh30,000
- Clinical application specialist — Dh26,000
- Business development executive — Dh20,000
- Sales engineer/account manager — Dh15,000
- Chief medical officer — Dh75,000
- Head of marketing/marketing director — Dh65,000
- Marketing manager/group product manager — Dh40,000
- Senior brand manager — Dh30,000
- Brand manager — Dh25,000
Regulatory and medical affairs
- Regulatory affairs director — Dh55,000
- Regulatory affairs manager — Dh40,000
- Medical director — Dh70,000
- Senior medical manager — Dh55,000
- Medical manager — Dh45,000
- Medical science liaison — Dh30,000
- Chief executive — Dh115,000
- Chief medical officer — Dh90,000
- Chief operation officer — Dh70,000
- Head of department — Dh65,000
- Chief nursing officer — Dh65,000
- Doctor/physician (surgeon) — Dh100,000
- Doctor/physician (consultant) — Dh85,000
- Doctor/physician (junior) — Dh60,000
- Nurses-in-charge — Dh22,000
- Nurse — Dh11,500
- Laboratory director — Dh55,000
- Laboratory manager — Dh40,000
- Quality manager — Dh42,500
- Laboratory technician — Dh11,500
Source: Michael Page
Updated: May 26, 2022, 7:34 AM