Across the Gulf States, Irish people are finding work in construction and engineering, tourism, agriculture, finance, education and the medical professions.
Richard Walsh, science and engineering manager with Sigmar Recruitment, says qualified and experienced western expats are typically seen as having good potential for management roles. Salaries are attractive, but it’s typically all about the “package” if you head to the Middle East.
“Salaries across the Gulf States for comparable construction or engineering roles are typically 50 to 60 per cent higher, and are higher again in real terms as the salary income in all of these countries is tax free,” says Walsh, noting that school fees are sometimes included. Companies almost always offer some type of accommodation assistance in the form of accommodation or a monthly allowance approximate to the local cost of accommodation.
In Oman, Andrea Linehan found that even when you disregard the tax-free element, salaries for expats were still better than in Ireland. Roles for expats in Oman offer salaries of about 50 per cent more than in Ireland, she says. “Having a very healthy disposable income is guaranteed,” she says. “It is easy to save in Oman while still enjoying a very comfortable lifestyle.”
Geraldine McTigue, associate director with CCM Recruitment, agrees that the package can be very attractive for Irish workers. “The major advantage for staff working in the Middle East nowadays is the free accommodation and utilities – they don’t have to worry about water charges, household charges, electricity bills, refuse collection or any of the mundane expenses that come with living in Ireland,” she says.
For construction jobs, the main destinations are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The main types of roles on offer are in project management, quantity surveying and design engineering.
“In the short term, the regional economies are still in growth mode despite falling oil prices. Saudi Arabia for example has accumulated large financial reserves and can continue to spend on infrastructural projects and so on,” says Walsh.
Qatar is expected to spend up to US$200 billion (€186 billion) on transport, stadiums and facilities before it hosts the 2022 Fifa World Cup, while the estimated investment in construction, infrastructure, power, water, IT and agriculture projects in Saudi Arabia could be as high as $1 trillion by 2020. The UAE also has construction projects worth hundreds of billions under way, with even more money being pumped into oil and gas, petrochemicals, energy and water projects.
Irish engineering and construction companies, such as Sisk, Kentech and Laing O’Rourke, have established themselves in the Middle East and won significant contracts in recent years, and some are bringing Irish employees and their families out on overseas packages. English is the established business language in much of the region, and design and innovation standards are high.
Health and education
Medical professionals will also find a lot of opportunity in the Gulf States. CCM Recruitment continues to be active in the Middle East, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and according to McTigue, while nursing skills across the board are in demand, emergency and intensive care skills are of particular interest.
“Nursing skills across the board are in demand but, if you have an emergency room and intensive care unit background, these skills are of particular interest. Midwifery, med/surg and operating room nurses will also always find it relatively easy to locate work in the Middle East if you have the right mix of skills and experience in your specialist area,” she advises.
Teachers are also in high demand to work in the international English-speaking schools.
While you might secure a job from Ireland through Skype or recruitment fairs, it helps to get on an aircraft if you are looking for a job in the region.
“There are jobs in Dubai but it is easier to get them if you are on the ground here,” says Bernard Creed, who has been living in Dubai for 10 years, where he used to be chairman of the Irish Business Network.
McTigue says that Skype is an option for some candidates. “We have been using Skype for years but more so for the second interview than an initial introduction, although it can be used on the odd occasion for a first interview if it is not physically possible for the candidate to make it to an interview when the client is over on a recruitment drive,” says McTigue.
Getting a job can take some time. Walsh says it can take at least one to two months, sometimes longer.
“Project changes and delays are common in the Middle East so recruitment plans are subject to change. Candidates can increase the speed of the process by travelling to their chosen destination for a week having done some groundwork previously in terms of applications.”
One point to note about the recruitment process is that companies often look for candidates of a certain age and gender – and explicitly so, unlike in Ireland.
Once in situ, networking can be a route to finding another job. In Dubai, the Irish Business Network came to life through the Dubai Irish Society which started over 40 years ago. With 150 members, it is now the formal platform for the business community to share knowledge and do business with one another.
“Networking in Dubai is easier than in Ireland, in that everybody is here to work and pretty much has a common story of arriving in Dubai alone. There is a commonality of story that bonds everybody here,” says Creed, noting that for job seekers, the IBN has a dedicated jobs portal set up just for Irish jobseekers. See its
Additional reporting: Gráinne Loughran