There are now fewer opportunities to work in KSA but why would anyone want to work in Saudi Arabia? Well there is one very powerful reason that drives people to brave going to this often extreme and inhospitable location; Money!
Wages in Saudi Arabia
The salaries offered for positions in Saudi Arabia are often much higher than for a similar position anywhere in the west and certainly higher than any position that most people can aspire to within countries such as India and the Philippines. Combined with the fact that you will pay no tax in Saudi Arabia this makes for a very interesting proposition for anyone who wants to build a secure financial future within a relatively short timescale.
Whilst you may hear people talking about extremely high salaries triple or more of what you would expect to be paid for the same position in the west most companies now tend to offer slightly above the rate you would expect to be paid in the west as starting salaries; however once you get into the country it is not impossible for you to find another position with higher wages through networking with your fellow countrymen. My past position paid me four times my previous UK salary and I was not low paid before I left for Saudi!
Benefits of Working in Saudi Arabia
In addition to tax free salaries most employment packages also include full health care, flights home each year (or to holiday destinations as most companies are not too worried as to if they fly you home or to some exotic destination), and your accommodation and some times all of your utilities. They often include company cars and travel allowances; all in all this means that on the whole the only thing you have to spend money for is your food and entertainment which means that is very easy to save a large proportion of your salary. Working in saudi Arabia can lead to you living a very luxurious and relaxing lifestyle.
Cost of Living in Saudi Arabia
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is not high, most items are cheaper than comparable items in the west and of course lacking in any purchase tax, the most dramatic change I found was in filling the fuel tank on my car, which I could FILL for less than the cost of just a Gallon back home (Just 12cents per liter.)
Another good reason for working in Saudi Arabia other than money is the opportunity to advance your career; you can often find a position which is the next step on the corporate ladder to put on your CV. Many people that I know have managed to progress quickly in Saudi; hard working intelligent individuals can be promoted quickly in the right companies or poached by other companies. There is far less quality competition within Saudi Arabia and often vacancies that open up unexpectedly due to people deciding not to return from vacations or moving onto other opportunities leaving vacancies that need to be filled rapidly. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people is a skill to cultivate in Saudi if you want to quickly get yourself promoted.
There are of course many reasons why people would never consider working in Saudi Arabia and I will list some of those below;
Saudi Arabia has many rules and regulations that would be seen as extreme and unfair by those of us from the west and even most other countries in the world. In fact many of the rules would be seen as abuses of human rights especially when it comes to the various rules regarding women in Saudi Arabia. Yet despite these rules and people knowing that if they should somehow break them they would be in extreme trouble they still come to work in Saudi Arabia.
The weather in Saudi Arabia is unbelievable if you have never experienced middle eastern weather; daytime temperatures can often be around the 40 to 45 degree mark and have been known to peak over 50 degrees during the day (That’s 125 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you that use that scale.) This means that should your work involve you spending time outside such as construction you are going to be very uncomfortable. I found even walking from my air conditioned car to my office very uncomfortable, when the wind blows it is similar to opening the door to a hot fan oven when you have your face too close. The other aspect that comes with the hot weather are the sandstorms, when the wind blows it lifts the sand and fills the air like a heavy choking fog, the sand gets in everywhere and you spend all of your time constantly cleaning up. But still we come there to work for the money.
The people of Saudi Arabia are not known as being the friendliest of people, they are a very private society and often can treat foreigners quite rudely. They are often difficult to work with and approach work in a very different way to most other societies, this can lead to extreme frustration in the workplace. The way Saudis treat expats makes the news quite frequently in some countries, currently Saudi Arabia is refusing to hire domestic workers from the Philippines as the Filipino government is asking for better working conditions for its people.
Security in Saudi Arabia
There is also the security and terrorist threat to consider, the whole of the middle east is unstable and many westerners fear for their safety in countries such as Saudi Arabia. At the moment there is little activity targeted against foreigners within KSA but people still fear for their safety, I have a couple of American friends who will not leave the safety of their compounds except to go to work.
Compounds, hotels where westerners stay and other secure establishments can be quite an experience for those who have never experienced this level of security and could put some people off wanting to come. Entering a compound for instance you will have to drive slowly through a series of speed bumps, concrete blocks that force you to drive a slalom all whilst under the sights of heavy weapons mounted on anything from an armored personnel carrier to full sized tank. Places are heavily guarded by the Saudi National Guard, which in my mind probably makes them more of a target for terrorist activity!
Why work in Saudi Arabia if you come from a poorer country?
The motivations if you are coming from India, the Philippines, Indonesia or any other poorer country are the same as for us in the west; Money. However the motivation is often much higher and the potential rewards more necessary back home for the individuals families. Often expat workers from these countries are working overseas to support their whole extended family.
The wages offered for positions to the people from these countries are much lower than are offered t western employees. An engineer from the Philippines would probably be paid more than one from India and both would be paid much less than an Engineer from the west. Companies consider the origin of a person very much when setting salaries for a position, despite experience and qualification.
There is a very definite social hierarchy based on a persons country of origin, Saudis see themselves at the top of the pyramid with other Arabs below them then westerners, other nationalities cascading downwards and the treatment given and wages paid deteriorating as you get to the bottom. You will find people from Bangladesh and other very poor areas working for as little as 600SAR per month who are given very poor accommodation and treated appallingly.
Many domestics and those working in simple laboring positions may find themselves employed for around 1000SAR per month, while this may be high wages back home this is very low within Saudi Arabia and many find it difficult to make ends meet and often take extra work if they can to earn extra money to send home.
Many women apply as domestics within Saudi families, many have no problems but some have terrible experiences and have to put up with both verbal and physical abuse. There are news reports every year of maids alleging rape against employers, maids that have disappeared being hunted for by family, maids that have been abused, not paid, imprisoned for years and the list goes on. Many maids run away from their sponsors, I have met many of these through my wife while in Saudi Arabia; many have told me stories of rape and abuse, of sponsors that refused to pay wages, of being locked up for days at a time.
So if you are considering working in Saudi Arabia you need to ask yourself why you would want to, the opportunities to earn a good salary and be able to save a large proportion of it is certainly what influenced my decision.