The latest Consumer Confidence Index, conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s number one job site, and YouGov, a research and consulting organisation, has revealed that the majority of MENA residents have either maintained or improved upon their financial status in the past 12 months, with more positive sentiments for the year to come.
Regional Sentiment While roughly a third of regional respondents to Bayt.com’s Consumer Confidence Index experienced a decrease in their finances in comparison to 2011, another third (34%) state that they have not had any change at all. More than a quarter (27%) claim to have an improved financial situation.
Country economies are considered by most to be either the same or worse than last year, and the majority of respondents believe that this is a neutral or bad time to purchase durable consumer goods and that business conditions are unfavourable. Only 12% claim that there are jobs readily available. The MENA-wide sentiment (as per 67% respondents) is that remuneration and compensation are not keeping pace with the cost of living, with a majority of respondents (40%) stating dissatisfaction with their current job and career prospects along with chances for growth (39%).
Despite this, job security appears not to be too much of an issue for professionals in the Middle East and North Africa; a collective 61% claim their job security to be “neutral” to “high”. The overall sentiment is that there will be little growth in terms of number of employees in companies in the coming three months, with 37% stating that they feel “neutrally” about staffing requirements being met.
As far as the year ahead is concerned, the outlook is positive across the MENA. Respondents consistently believe that their personal financial situation will take a turn for the better. The majority also say that the same will be true for their country’s economy, business conditions and employment availability, too. This positivity however doesn’t extend to the cost of living or real estate; 39% and 36% of respondents, respectively, believe that these will be negatively impacted in the future.
Only 27% of respondents will consider buying a new vehicle in the next year. Those who will are more likely to buy new. The same is true of the 21% who are looking to buy property. In terms of intention to make ‘smaller’ purchases, desktops and laptops continue to be top in popularity, followed by furniture and digital cameras.
“Feelings towards economy, commerce and employment are relatively consistent across the MENA region, with regional sentiment for the current situation remains relatively low. However, there is always hope for a more positive tomorrow. That employees feel secure in their current job is a welcome find,” said Suhail Masri, Vice President of Sales, Bayt.com. “At Bayt.com, we gather information that is relevant to both job seekers and employers, combining our knowledge of the industry and region to deliver tools pertinent to the millions of people who use our job site for recruitment purposes,” he added.
“With the majority of people stating that their financial situation has either remained the same or improved over the last year, it may be that the positive outlook for the future may be realistic,” said Sundip Chahal, CEO, YouGov. “While the majority say that now is a bad time for business, there are some countries that are clearly experiencing a more positive commercial atmosphere – which, undoubtedly, is a good sign for things to come.”
In the UAE For the most part, the situation in the UAE follows that of the rest of the region. Respondents state that their financial situation is the same now as it was 12 months ago, though they also believe that the country’s economy has declined.
On a positive note, however, people in the UAE do believe that this is a good time to buy consumer durable goods, and business conditions are considered to be neutral, as opposed to the perceived bad atmosphere elsewhere in the region.
The outlook for employment is also slightly better in the UAE than in the MENA as whole, with 43% stating that there are very few jobs available as opposed to regional 50% who claim the same is true for their country. UAE respondents state that there are fewer employees working in their company now than there were last year; 69% of them believe that their salary has not kept pace with the cost of living, and 52% say that their compensation is inadequate.
This does not seem to have had too negative an effect on job satisfaction, though. More than half (54%) opted for ‘neutral’ or ‘high’ to describe their satisfaction with their job, career and growth prospects with their current employer. Despite this, an equally-split 72% state that they have ‘neutral’ to ‘low’ satisfaction with their perceived job security. In the next three months, most UAE respondents believe that there will be few additional employees added to their company (38% claim to have a ‘neutral’ sentiment in this regard). Similarly, 41% are neutral as to whether or not their company will keep up with staffing requirements.
UAE respondents are positive about the year ahead, with the majority believing that both their financial situation (49%) and the country’s economy (46%) will have improved. Business conditions and the number of jobs available are also expected to be better, according to 48% and 35% of respondents, respectively. On the other hand, 33% of residents in the UAE believe that the cost of living will be negatively impacted in the year to come, while 31% believe that cost of real estate for rental or purchase will not be affected.
Roughly a quarter (27%) of UAE residents are expecting to buy a vehicle in 2012, of which almost half (44%) say they will buy new. Only 19% are considering investing in real estate, and of these, 30% that are considering buying a lived-in property.In terms of household goods, the most popular anticipated purchase is a laptop or desktop, followed by furniture and LCD or plasma televisions.
Data for the quarterly Bayt.com Consumer Confidence Index survey – May 2012was collected online from 18thApril through7th May 2012, with 10,138 respondents aged over 18 years, covering GCC Arab, North African, Levant, Western Expatriate and Asian nationalities. Countries who participated are UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Pakistan.
Before joining SME Advisor, I worked as a producer/reporter for Forbes Media in New York. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Studies at the University of South Florida in the US. I am currently in Dubai working as Sub-Editor for SME Advisor Middle East, which is a business magazine published by CPI. You can follow me on Twitter: @joumanasaad or @SMEadvisorME and (Joumana Saad) or (SME Advisor) on LinkedIn.