Having a clear understanding of the working conditions in the Middle East will allow you to get a better idea of whether you would be comfortable working for a period of time in the Middle East. Of course, working conditions vary from job to job as well as country to country. (In-Demand Professions in the Middle East)
In the Middle East, there are no differences in time keeping between summer and winter. In most of the Muslim countries, Friday is the Sunday, i.e. the day of rest. Two-shift system prevails in most of the establishments. In countries where Friday is the holiday, most embassies and offices are also closed on Thursday. However there are variations between each emirate and individual businesses, and there are shorter hours during Ramadan, so the following information is a guide only:
In UAE, the Gulf
Standard of Living
Living in UAE is very comfortable and the standard of living is high and comparable to the best in the world. Other than accommodation, cost of living is low and hence relatively high savings potential. There are best of shopping malls and multiplexes, public parks and other recreational facilities. The cities are clean and well maintained.
Health and Welfare
There are adequate number of hospitals and clinics offering the best of medical facilities. The cost is high but affordable since health insurance is mandatory.
Generally, cost of accommodation has been rising and relatively high, forcing citizens to stay in distant suburbs. However, the market is now showing signs of stabilizing on the cost factor. For single individuals of either sex, there are also inexpensive accommodation options.
Expatriates can now own property in designated areas and projects which come along with the attraction of a residence visa. This has led to a boom in the Construction and Property market.
Taxes and Duties
UAE is a tax free economy which is a very big attraction. There are no income taxes, sales tax, octroi (a tax on goods brought into a town) etc and is a free economy with products coming from every part of the world.
Office hours are usually from 8.30 or 9.00 am to 5.30 or 6.00 pm.
In the holy month of Ramadan, working hours are reduced by about two hours a day, legally this should apply to all staff, but many companies only apply it to Muslims, who fast during daylight hours. Traditionally in Dubai, the weekends have been Thursday afternoons and Fridays, but many businesses have now changed to a 2-day weekend with Friday and Saturday holidays .
Safety and Security
UAE is one of the safest countries in the world even for single women. The Crime rates are far lower than most developed countries and the laws are tough and rightly so.
Driving and Traffic
Cars are widely used here and by a recent estimate one in four own cars. The traffic in UAE in major cities such as Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi is dense like in any metro, but disciplined and always moving. The traffic here moves on the right and one need to attend driving classes to take a license.
Regarding the climate, UAE has extreme heat in summer and a surprisingly mild and pleasant winter. The summer between April-October is hot and humid but does not make much of a difference since the lifestyle permits mostly an air-conditioned environment whether you are at office or home or driving. Pollution here is at very minimum level.
(Work and Live in Middle East: Dubai City Guide)
In Turkey, the end-of-week holiday is Sunday.
Labour laws in Turkey support a nominal 45-hour workweek, and the amount of overtime that employers may request is limited. Non-wage benefits that most workers receive include transportation and meals, and some jobs include housing and subsidized vacations .
It’s relatively inexpensive to live in Egypt, so take that into consideration while you're looking for a job.
Full-time work is defined as follows:
In the construction industry - 211 monthly hours; In other trades – 186 monthly hours.
You are entitled to a weekly rest period of at least 36 hours - on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday, depending on your religion.
You are entitled to 14-21 calendar days of paid vacation each year, depending on the number of years you have been with the same employer.
Vacation is given either at the end of the year in the course of the following year.
You are also entitled to 9 paid religious holidays a year according to your religion or the Jewish calendar, at your choice.
You are entitled to 150 percent pay and an optional vacation day if you worked during a holiday. Caregivers are entitled to payment for working during holidays from day one at their job.
With just a few exceptions, the end-of-week holiday throughout the Middle East is Friday. In Israel and the Palestinian Territories it's Saturday.
Salaries in Qatar are usually similar to or greater than those paid in western countries.
But because the region has no personal taxation, net income is usually much greater, which is one of the major attractions of working in Qatar. In the past, remuneration packages were split into various elements: basic salary, car provision or allowance, housing provision or allowance, medical cover, education for children and air tickets for home visits. Today, however, employers tend to pay a mere salary, which covers all these expenses, although in some cases there are allowances or other bonuses.
In addition to their salary, contract workers are awarded an ‘indemnity’ at the end of the contract period. The indemnity is usually based on basic salary excluding any bonuses. The indemnity can be a significant amount of money if you’ve been working in Qatar for a long time, and many people manage either to accumulate a reasonable financial cushion or to live the high life. If you’re clever and disciplined, you should be able to do some of both. The indemnity has nothing to do with insurance but is an end-of-contract bonus which is required by law to be paid to expatriate workers as a sort of ‘thank-you’ for being of service to the state. (It’s also known as ‘end of service benefits’.) Indemnity scales usually amount to 15 (in some cases 20) days of basic pay per year of employment for the first three years and thereafter a month’s salary per year of employment.
Note that some Arab companies regularly delay the payment of salaries, cash flow problems being passed on to their staff. In this event, you have little alternative but to wait.
Working Hours & Overtime
The working week in Qatar tends to vary between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the particular company’s policy. Office hours are usually from 8.30 or 9.00 am to 5.30 or 6.00 pm. There are no differences in time keeping between summer and winter. In the month of Ramadan, the working day is reduced to six hours and legally this should apply to all staff, but many companies only apply it to Muslims, who fast during daylight hours.
Friday is the Muslim rest day and, if your company has a five-day working week, the other day off will probably be either Thursday or Saturday. Saturday is the more popular choice for international companies, as taking Thursday off would mean a reduction in the number of operational days in common with much of the rest of the world. Conversely, other companies insist on Thursday, as the school ‘weekend’ is Thursday and Friday.
Qataris love their ‘siesta’, and Doha resembles a ghost town in the early afternoon. The following opening hours prevail throughout Qatar:
Banks 7.30am to 1pm Sunday to Thursday;
Government offices 6am to 2pm Sunday to Thursday;
Post offices 7am to 8pm Sunday to Thursday, and 8am to 11am and 5pm to 7pm Saturday;
Restaurants 11.30am to 1.30pm and 5.30pm to midnight Saturday to Thursday, 5pm to midnight Friday;
Shopping centres 10am to midnight Saturday to Thursday, 2pm to midnight Friday .
The lifestyle in the Middle East may be different from what you’re used to, so do get yourself acquainted with their cultural norms to reduce the level of culture shock you may experience when you arrive there. If you can embrace these differences and appreciate their culture, there will be a lot of exciting experiences awaiting you!