A comprehensive guide for professionals moving to Saudi Arabia. This topic has become more popular to due to recent developments with an increase in demand for tier 1 talent, for example, such sectors as Tax, Strategy and Technology.
An exciting time is approaching in the GCC with VAT implementation expected to be introduced in 2018 affecting professional the services industry. At Cooper Fitch, Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been our biggest market, both in industry and practice. We have been supporting clients throughout professional services across all levels (from consultant to partner roles) throughout all locations (Riyadh, Jeddah, Damman and Al Khobar), finding the right talent to help implement the VAT changes. From a market perspective our clients are particularly interested in a variety of candidates with ‘hands-on’ implementation experience with notably higher demand in candidates from Malaysia, Australia, UK and India.
One of the main drivers for expatriates to take the plunge to the sunny GCC is usually for financial compensation - the attractive tax-free salary packages and family benefits. After many discussions with international candidates there are concerns associated with career progression, finances, diversity in the workplace and social life. As expected, the UAE is noticeably the top location for Tax professionals. Perhaps this is due to Dubai’s global reputation as a business hub, its fast cars and fancy restaurants - but it is easy to become distracted by the glitz and glamour of the UAE and forget about the expensive cost of living and long working hours.
So why choose Saudi Arabia as your next destination?
Saudi Arabia is the engine of the Middle East and with the VAT implementation and the announcement of Saudi 2030 (aiming to make Saudi less reliant on oil). There will be a growing gap in the market for new opportunities across many sectors such as Healthcare, Education and Construction and so far there is significant publicity in developing into a global hub.
With its booming economy attracting around 20% of expatriates (a high majority of Asian and Western nationalities) its reputation is growing as a cosmopolitan country. It is important to educate candidates on the fact that work experience in KSA makes your profile incredibly diverse and competitive against those without GCC experience. And, once you have worked within the region it becomes easier to transfer to other locations throughout the Gulf.
Saudi provides the opportunity for faster career progression, it must be noted; in a more developed market what would take a candidate 10 years to achieve e.g. reaching Partnership would be significantly reduced. With no surprise, clients are also remarkably supportive and happy to invest their time educating and supporting candidates.
It offers a great opportunity to work with diverse people and with the government’s introduction of ‘Saudization’ in 2006, most of the private sector has employed a percentage of Saudi Nationals within each workforce. It gives the opportunity to live and work in a multicultural environment with people of all different nationalities alongside welcoming Saudi Nationals.
The Kingdom is known for being one of the most conservative countries, however, also one of the most developing countries now allowing women to work in education and healthcare. Its reputation for being conservative compromises social entertainment and some freedom. After a few discussions with candidates currently living in Saudi the overall opinion to make life more habitable was to live in a private compound. In one of the more liberal locations, Jeddah, rent prices are reported to be 79% lower in KSA than the UAE. Compounds usually offer world class facilities and allow all women to live in a very similar style to how you could live and dress in any international city. There are plenty of private beaches, corniche cafés and restaurants and a great environment to bring up children in the sun. Candidates have also notably enjoyed working in Al Khobar (Eastern Province) being very close to Bahrain and more open minded, it is fairly easy to live in Bahrain and commute into work.
Evidently, there are many sacrifices to be made whilst living in Saudi Arabia, it is important for candidates to see Saudi Arabia in its full potential. Saudi provides a rich learning experience, progressive career development and a location that will open your mind in a way of living and culture. With little outgoings and the added advantage of a tax-free package, it is easy to enjoy a high quality of life and increase your saving potential.
There are endless benefits of having Saudi Arabia on your CV including aggressive career development, exposure to VAT implementation and the opportunity to work with people of all nationalities. Saudi Arabia is a great place to start your career in the GCC.
If you are interested in exploring KSA or any other locations throughout the GCC feel free to contact me to hear more information.
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