Dreams of a luxurious lifestyle and tax-free salaries continue to attract many expats to work in the UAE, although wages are less lucrative now than a few years ago and housing costs have risen disproportionately.

While generous relocation packages are not as common as they used to be, expats will still have plenty of opportunities to both splurge and save. Those in very senior executive positions are still likely to command generous employment benefits such as housing, schooling and transport allowances. 

As a minimum, expats offered work in the UAE can expect funding for their initial flights there, a return flight to their home country at least once a year, and health insurance. If these benefits aren't forthcoming, we recommend expats negotiate with prospective employers.

Job market in the UAE

Person typing on laptop

The UAE job market, particularly Abu Dhabi and Dubai, continues to be an attractive destination for expats. While the oil and gas sector remains a significant employer, there has been a concerted push towards diversifying the economy. This shift has opened up opportunities in sectors like renewable energy, technology, healthcare, education and financial services. Abu Dhabi, rich in oil reserves, is gradually transitioning towards sustainable energy and technology, whereas Dubai, with its lower reliance on oil, has already established itself as a hub for finance, trade, tourism and real estate.

The government Emiratisation policy, aiming to integrate more Emiratis into the workforce, particularly impacts sectors like banking, insurance and trade. Despite this, the demand for skilled expats in areas such as IT, engineering and healthcare remains high. Companies in the UAE are especially interested in candidates who bring international experience and expertise to these growing industries.

The burgeoning startup scene, especially in Dubai, is another area of growth, with the city becoming a hotspot for entrepreneurs and tech innovators. This sector provides ample opportunities for expats with a knack for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Finding a job in the UAE

Securing employment in the UAE typically requires preparation and networking. Most expats secure a job before moving, with many international companies operating in the region offering positions to candidates overseas. Prospective jobseekers should consider reaching out to recruitment agencies specialising in their field and exploring job listings on popular websites and local newspapers like Gulf News and Khaleej Times.

Networking plays a crucial role in the UAE job market. Leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn and attending industry-specific events can be invaluable. For those already in the UAE, connecting with fellow expats and local professionals can open doors to new opportunities.

While the process of finding a job in the UAE can be competitive, expats with the right qualifications and experience, particularly in high-demand sectors, will find various opportunities. It is important to be mindful of the legal requirements for working in the UAE, including the necessity of a work permit and residence visa, usually facilitated by the employer.

Useful links

  • Bayt.com is a leading job site in the Middle East and North Africa, connecting jobseekers with employers looking to hire.
  • GulfTalent.com offers a platform for jobseekers to explore opportunities in various sectors across the Gulf region.
  • Naukrigulf.com is a job portal catering specifically for jobseekers and employers in the Gulf countries.
  • Indeed.ae provides a comprehensive search engine for job listings in the UAE and beyond.

Work culture in the UAE

Diverse group of businesspeople having a meeting

With so many expats living and working in the UAE, the business environment is unlikely to present any significant culture shock for new arrivals. However, as the UAE is an Islamic country, Emirati businessmen will still take their mandate from Islam and Arab culture, and expats need to remain patient and flexible and always respect the local traditions and customs.

The work culture in the UAE is a unique blend of traditional Emirati customs and a modern, international business ethos. English is widely spoken in the professional environment, making it easier for expats to adapt.

Business practices in the UAE place a strong emphasis on personal relationships and trust. Thus, networking and face-to-face meetings are crucial aspects of doing business. Bear in mind that business hours may vary, especially during the summer and Ramadan.

Emiratis value politeness, patience and respect in professional interactions. Understanding and adapting to these cultural nuances can significantly enhance an expat's work experience in the UAE. Expats should also be prepared for a slower pace in decision-making and business processes, as this is characteristic of the local business culture.

Expat Health Insurance

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Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

  • Comprehensive Family coverage, wherever you go
  • Paediatric coverage for well-child visits & immunizations
  • Access to dental and orthodontic care
  • 24/7 multilingual Customer Service

Get a quote from Cigna Global (10% off family health plans in June)

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