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Job cuts at The National: is UAE press in trouble?

April 19, 2017 8:00 am


The UAE’s print media market continues to lose share to other media such as digital and TV. In the past five years, newspaper revenues fell by 20 per cent and classified revenue losses reached almost 50 per cent, according to a report about regional publishing by Arab Media Outlook.

The fall in classified revenue is impacted by a host of online players, which shows the challenge facing the circulation numbers of UAE newspapers, says the report.

Moreover, the UAE publishes more than 150 magazines, covering a wide range of sectors, genres and categories, including entertainment, technology, business, fashion, travel, lifestyle, home and design.

The print magazine market in the UAE is mostly bilingual — Arabic and English — with many magazines containing local content that is published locally. Arab Media Outlook indicated that research showed a significantly big drop in reach for paid magazines.

Newspaper cuts jobs

Several leading newspapers and websites have reported that The National has cut jobs as part of a reorganisation under its new owner.

The reported workforce reduction comes roughly five months after state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADM) sold the English-language newspaper to International Media Investments (IMI), a subsidiary of private investment firm Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation (ADMIC).

It is understood that staff received their new contracts on Sunday. Those who are not going to be hired by the new company will retain their current roles until June 30, when the ADM contracts expire.

Staff must work a six-month probation period at the new company, while sources suggest some salaries were cut for people who will be doing the same position they held for ADM.

ADMIC was set up in 2010 as a special purpose vehicle for a partnership with broadcaster BSkyB to launch the Sky News Arabia channel from Abu Dhabi. It is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister.

A spokesperson for IMI told AFP that the newspaper has been undergoing a new “digital transformation”, which is expected to be completed in mid-2017.

A previous staff member told AMEinfo that 25 per cent of the workforce lost their jobs at The National. Those who remained were asked to take a 20 per cent pay cut and a 50 per cent reduction in annual leave. They were also asked to work 5-10 extra hours each week.

Sources close to the process said the post of chief editor could go to Mina Al-Oraibi, the former assistant editor of Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

Magazine loses editor

In a shocking move, Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz was removed from her post as editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia after just two print issues of the luxury fashion magazine. The Saudi princess parted ways with Condé Nast International, the parent group of the leading fashion magazine on Thursday last week.

She told Fashion Network: “I didn’t leave. I was fired! They [Dubai-based publisher Nervora] are in breach of contract and they shall be hearing more from my lawyers.”

Nervora has released a statement naming Manuel Arnaut the new editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia, with his new role due to commence on May 7, 2017. Vogue Arabia is currently on the lookout for a Managing Editor to support Manuel Arnaut, according to a job ad posted on Linkedin on April 19.

Job market recovery

According to the 2017 Hays Salary and Employment Report, roughly seven in ten (72 per cent) employers are looking to hire new staff this year, compared to the 37 per cent who did so in 2016. The outlook is an improvement from the previous year, when businesses resorted to budget-tightening measures to cope with the impact of low oil prices.

Data released by Bayt.com shows that employers in the MENA region opened more than 32,600 fresh positions for jobseekers between January and March 2017. From the total vacancies available, 10,149 are for companies based in the UAE.

Who is hiring?

A survey by a UAE-based recruitment firm Gulf Talent said that consumers have begun to spend more on eating out, home décor and other non-essentials. So it is no surprise that the manufacturing sector is doing the most hiring these days.

The Gulf Talent survey noted: “Those who supply products for food and consumer goods are benefitting from the high growth rate of the region’s indigenous population.”

Nearly six in ten (58 per cent) manufacturing businesses in the sector are planning to raise their headcount, according to the survey.

Companies in the healthcare sector, including hospitals, reported the second-highest rate of jobs growth, with more than half (55 per cent) eyeing staff expansion. This is led by increasing demand from a fast-growing population, further fuelled by government investment and regulatory changes requiring employers to provide medical cover for their employees.

There are also new jobs in the banking industry, where 44 per cent of companies plan to hire additional staff. However, employment cuts are still going to affect some banks, with eight per cent saying they do have plans to cut back staff this year. Though the number of payroll cuts is falling as more banks (38 per cent) laid off employees in 2016.

Workers in debt collection departments are in demand, as banks look to add manpower to keep a grip on rising levels of loan defaults among customers.

According to GulfTalent, organisations in the petroleum business continue to downsize. The rate of job cuts in the sector has slowed down, with only a third of firms confirming plans to lay off workers, compared with almost half in 2016.

Among those polled for the survey, nearly eight in ten (77 per cent) oil executives expect their 2017 revenues to exceed those of last year, as oil prices edge higher at times, following output cuts agreed in the OPEC meeting last November.

Companies in the construction industry are the worst performing, with nearly half (45 per cent) of firms reporting plans to reduce employee numbers this year, only slightly less than the 55 per cent recorded in 2016.

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By Hina Latif
Journalist
Hina Latif has over six years of media and publishing experience under her belt, spanning multiple magazines and a newspaper in the UAE. She studied creative writing at the University of Oxford and has a Master’s degree in Journalism.



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