Construction and Engineering – Living and Working in the Middle East

There are so many questions to ask when seeking work or a career in construction in the Middle East. This article is focused on Living and working in the Middle East for British Citizens.

Stafford Lawrence Ltd work with a number of well known construction consultancy and engineering clients and provide roles for Quantity Surveying / Commercial Managemen, Project Management and Engineering (Architectural, Civil, Structural, Electrical and Mechanical) Candidates seeking jobs in the Middle East. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

This blog briefly covers salaries in the middle east, as well as visas, age limits, and holiday allowances. We also briefly cover the differences between Dubai, Saudi, Qatar.

The following is just a little information gleaned over 20+ years working for clients and with candidates and placing them into jobs in the Middle East.

Salaries in the Middle East 

Salaries in the Middle East – That depends on the position and the level. We tend to work mainly with global organisations, who have a UK /European or US arm.  Our clients are aware, that you pay tax and pay for your own accommodation and sometimes transport when living and working in the UK.

Although it is likely you will want to earn a lot more money for working overseas, don’t be greedy and price yourself out of the market. Yes you can earn a good tax free salary, but you need to be realistic. Remember their are highly qualified candidates from across the globe applying for middle east roles. You are competing with a lot more people.

When we talk to anyone interested in living and working the Middle East, we ascertain if it is viable for UK candidates to go to the Middle East. Occasionally, we will advise candidates it won’t be financially viable, especially candidates with families, as the cost of living and schooling in the Middle East is high. The demand for Middle East roles is high and the salaries in recent years have come down.

What Salary can I get in the Middle East

We aim to get some of your current salary tax-free, plus accommodation and transport allowances. Medical Cover is provided on top of your package.  Our clients provide a mobilisation and demobilisation flight (any additional flights will come out of your transport allowance). Your salary in the Middle East is paid as a monthly amount. This covers your basic salary, transport and accommodation allowance. All the companies that we work for will also pay for all visa costs and assist you in obtaining a visa.

Adverts for Middle East Jobs

When recruiters advertise roles, the figure advertised is a monthly amount in local currency and this will usually be the ALL IN amount (salary, accommodation and transport) Medical on top, plus an end of service bonus which is a percentage 1-month salary for every year served. Some companies may offer additional bonuses.

We are advertising some job vacancies in Saudi that provide accommodation rather than an accommodation allowance, which is a bonus as prices are rising. We also have some remote roles that provide hotel accommodation and food.

Remember, competition for roles in the Middle East is very high, you are competing with the best and most qualified candidates from across the globe. We often advise our candidates on a suggested salary for Middle East roles, it is in our interest to get you the very best salary we can, but at the same time ensuring that you don’t price yourself out of the market.

Pensions in the Middle East

In many middle east countries a pension scheme is not a statutory requirement. So pensions are not part of your package for a Middle East role. Stafford Lawrence Ltd do not provide financial advice on pension schemes, but we do advise that you ensure that you have a provision for your retirement. You may enjoying a high salary as an expat, and reap the rewards of living and working in the Middle East, but everyone retires at some point. Advice on how to ensure you have an adequate pension as an expat, is available on the internet. Please read below on retirement ages in the middle east as these have changed recently.

Dubai Vs Qatar salary and Dubai vs Saudi Salary

In recent months because of the pandemic and reduced projects coupled with Dubai being the preferred choice for many candidates, salaries in Dubai have seen a significant reduction. Competition for roles is high, clients can pick and choose their candidates. Salaries in Qatar are higher than in Dubai, but the cost of living in Qatar is also higher. With so much competition for Dubai roles, Qatar is the next choice followed by Saudi Arabia. Salaries in Saudi Arabia tend to be higher than in Qatar, however, salaries in Saudi have also seen a reduction, because of candidates becoming available from Oman and Dubai where projects are slowing.

Which country in the Middle East is best for me?

Dubai is the most popular for families but salaries have come down considerably over recent years, there are fewer projects and more candidates, so, a lot of competition for roles, but you can still earn a good tax free salary. Unmarried couples can now live and work in Dubai.

Qatar salaries are slightly more than the UAE and it is less restrictive than Saudi and of course, they still have ongoing projects for the World Cup 2022.

Saudi currently has lots of projects Hotels and Resorts and Theme Parks, Saudi Arabia or KSA ( Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is more restrictive than other parts of the Middle East but has improved considerably over recent years, women are now allowed to drive and there are a lot of ex-pats over there, in terms of salary it’s on a par with Qatar, possibly slightly more.

Work for Women in Construction and Engineering the Middle East

Over the last 20 years we have placed a number of women into Dubai and Qatar into construction and engineering roles. There are a number of women at all levels across the industry.

Saudi Arabia KSA is actively encouraging women in the Construction and Engineering sectors in Saudi Arabia -KSA. Stafford Lawrence Ltd has recently placed a number of women into a variety of roles in the Kingdom and also in to remote locations.

Will they provide me with Accommodation?

No. In general, they will provide you with an accommodation allowance every month which is part of your monthly salary. Some remote location roles provide you with hotel accommodation and food. We suggest that you look at accommodation and costs on the internet, but wait till you get over there. There are plenty of ex-pats working for the company you join, who will be able to provide the name of a good agent, or maybe if you don’t want your own accommodation you can rent a room. Most companies will provide hotel accommodation for the first few weeks/ month.

What position can I expect? “I’m a Senior Quantity Surveyor and I want an Associate Director role”.

Candidates without previous experience in the Middle East may be offered a role title similar to the one they currently have.

It would be difficult to suggest that you could ‘hit the ground running’ without previous middle east experience. OK, you might be very smart, but there will be different ways of working, different contracts, FIDIC. We suggest you learn to walk for the first 3-6 months, gain experience, complete probation, then start chasing titles. You might have to take a step back to take a step forward.

Can I take my girlfriend/ boyfriend with me to the Middle East?

Due to new laws in Dubai, you can now go to Dubai as an unmarried couple. You cannot go to Saudi as an unmarried couple and I would not recommend it in Qatar. although i have heard there are couples who do. You are working in a Muslim country and you must respect the laws. All our clients adhere to these laws very strictly, failure to do so would impact their business.

Is there a beach?

Yes, would you believe it! We are asked this question a lot. The reply is always the same “ Do you have a beach in your current role in Stoke/ Manchester/ London etc”. Alas, we are not a travel agency, this is a job…. There are beaches, but we are not selling a holiday here and there’s plenty of sand. Remember, you are seeking to WORK in the Middle East….

Is there an age limit to work in the Middle East

Sometimes, because of the nature of the work, clients ask us to find candidates under a certain age. It is difficult to get a visa over the age of 55. There are ways around this if the client is keen to have you on board. There are UK nationals working in the Middle East that I know of who are well over 70. Currently, the retirement age for expatriates in Saudi Qatar and Dubai is 60. It is becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to provide visas after the age of 60.

I have a criminal conviction, will I still be able to go?

Part of the visa paperwork requires a Police Clearance Check. If you have a criminal conviction, it is unlikely you will obtain a visa. You can make a plea to have certain minor convictions removed from your UK record.

What qualifications do I need for a job in Dubai, Saudi or Qatar?

That depends on the role. We work with Project Managers Engineers and Cost and Commercial professionals for positions from Assistant to Board Level in the Middle East. When clients approach a recruiter, it is usually for a candidate that they cant find themselves. Roles that we recruit for in the Middle East require a minimum of a Degree Qualification and sometimes Chartered Status. MRICS MAPM MCIOB CEng PEng. Some companies and countries ask for a Full-time degree qualification rather than a part-time degree qualification. In certain instances, some clients ask for a 4-year degree rather than a 3-year degree.

How long does it take to get a visa for the Middle East?

When you have an offer for the middle east, you have to start the process of obtaining a visa. Your qualifications will be attested as well as a police clearance check. You will also need a medical. Vaccination certificates are a requirement, to enter and work in all Middle East countries as an expatriate. The timescale is currently 1-3 months. Some clients have a quicker process than others, they have a team to help you. Your qualifications/ marriage certificates belong to you, the cost of attesting them is sometimes down to the candidate. The client pays all other visa fees and in some cases will also pay for Qualifications to be attested.

What projects will I be working on?

That depends on your experience, If you are a Buildings Specialist- Hotels, Resorts, Mixed Use, Commercial, Leisure and Entertainment projects. If you are a civils professional there are Roads and Highways, Bridges and Dams or Rail projects. There are so many great projects to work on in the Middle East. If you have Entertainment venues or Hotel experience your skills will be highly regarded currently in Saudi.

What is the holiday allowance?

Holiday Allowances differ slightly from country to country. For example, you can expect 25 days plus 10 National days in Saudi. You can check national days for each county on the internet. There are also a number of religious holidays throughout the year.

Do I need to be vaccinated to work in the Middle East

At the current time of writing this blog, the answer is YES. Candidates need to be vaccinated to work in the Middle East.

Get in touch with us about living and working in the Middle East

Every country has slightly different requirements,  we have only covered the basics here. If you are keen on living and working in the Middle East, please get in contact.

You can email Victoria if you have any further questions victoria@staffordlawrence.com we will add the questions to the blog and provide an answer.

Quantity Surveyor jobs in the Middle East

All our UK Middle East and International roles are on our website. Or follow us for up to date roles and information on our Linkedin page.

We will also be writing similar articles for U.K Candidates who wish to live and work in the US, Canada , Asia, Australia and New Zealand

Visit our International Jobs page for our full list of vacancies in Dubai Qatar and Saudi.

Below are just a few of our current Middle East jobs.

Commercial Manager Jobs Dubai – Stafford Lawrence

MRICS Quantity Surveyor Riyadh, KSA – Stafford Lawrence QS Jobs KSA

Quantity Surveyor Jobs Middle East – Stafford Lawrence