Your Bite-Sized Guide to Finding Work in Saudi Arabia
Dubbed the star economy of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is a land of opportunity. Holding 20% of the world’s petroleum reserves, besides offering high wages, tax-free income and benefits such as subsidised healthcare, education and housing, this country is a very attractive option for expatriates.
Finding Work in Saudi Arabia – Your Bite-Sized Guide
Like other oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia’s economy is heavily dependent on overseas workers. It employs roughly 6 million expats in the oil and service sectors, focusing chiefly on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and construction.
In recent years, the Saudi government has made efforts to make the country a self-sufficient economy. This has led to creation of jobs in the finance and service sectors.
With the country’s annual GDP growth expected to touch 4.4% in 2014, hiring is expected to only increase in various sectors and industries. The employment census reveals that it still remains the most ‘hotspot’ location for international workers. According to the Global Snapshot Survey, 66% of organisations in the Saudi Kingdom are planning to recruit this year.
Although water is scarce in the Kingdom, technological advancements such as aquifers and seawater desalinisation has made agriculture a significant economic sector. Wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, and citrus fruits are grown, and livestock is now raised in this most arid country in the world. Manufacturing has also increased; Saudi Arabia now produces chemicals, industrial gases, fertiliser, plastics, metals and minerals including iron ore, gold, copper, phosphate, bauxite and uranium.
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Sectors & Job Roles
Saudi Arabia’s increasing investment in urban planning, transport infrastructure, food processing, and water resource management is a boon for specialists with experience in these sectors. There are a large number of jobs in engineering (particularly in the oil industry), Information Technology (IT), healthcare and medicine, banking and financial services, teaching (especially for women), telecommunications, and construction.
- Energy & Power
With an aim to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on its oil and gas reserves by 50%, Saudi Arabia is exploring other avenues of power generation – atomic, solar and other renewable energy resources. The government also plans to increase its electricity generation capability from 55GW to 120GW by 2020. For these ambitious projects, the energy and power sectors are seeking expatriates at senior levels.
Growing at an annual rate of 4.7%, the manufacturing sector is one of the main contributors to the Saudi economy. With large public and private investments in upcoming projects, employers are looking to hire people with international experience and a fresh perspective. There is a demand for senior professionals in production and management with experience in lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, operations and quality, chiefly in FMCG, packaging and chemical sectors.
Saudi’s vision to build six economic cities to house 4.5 million people by 2020 has bolstered growth in the construction industry which is estimated to see a growth rate of 6.4% in 2014. Other ambitious projects like construction of the metro lines, hospitals and educational institutes will be hunting for professionals in these mega projects. Several of the openings are at senior levels in the public and semi-private sectors.
One of the three largest non-oil contributors to Saudi’s GDP, analysts agree that the retail sector will continue to flourish in this emerging market with a young population, high disposable income, and expanding trade. International retail and brand chains like Burberry, Children’s Place, Tesco, etc. have set up operation in the metropolitan cities of the Kingdom. Euromonitor estimates that the retail sector will reach a valuation of $73.6 billion in 2014.
Analysts estimate that the banking sector in Saudi is poised for a significant growth at a rate of 15.3% in 2014. This will breed lucrative opportunities in investment banking, SME banking, private banking, Islamic banking, commercial banking, treasury, etc. Employers are seeking investment banking professionals with the right mix of technical skills, domain expertise and Western banking experience.
- Information Technology (IT)
Investment and development in healthcare, infrastructure, education and retail sectors have warranted a pressing need for robust IT systems. Saudi’s IT sector is expected to touch valuation of USD 4.9 billion in 2014, creating an urgent need for skilled IT professionals at senior to mid-senior levels. Demand is high for the roles of IT Director, Solution Director, Project Manager, ERP Manager, Information System Manager and Enterprise Architect.
The major providers of jobs in Saudi Arabia are companies like Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), Saudi Telecom Company (STC), et al. There are various multinational corporations with operations in Saudi Arabia – including Cisco Systems, BAE Systems, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, Schlumberger and Siemens.
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According to a survey conducted by Bayt.com, 40% of professionals consider the salaries offered in Riyadh to be most competitive compared to other cities in the region. The majority of professionals receive basic salary plus benefits, making it the most popular type of pay structure. Reports state that C-level executives of a Saudi company make an average of USD 25,000 per month.
These encouraging economic prospects have given confidence to Saudi professionals who feel their standard of living is above average, and who rank the country highly on metrics including availability of utilities, stability of political environment, and general safety and security. Studies also point out that mid-to-senior professionals with industry expertise and valuable experience can look forward to an average salary increase of 6% in 2014.
It is very rare, indeed almost impossible for a foreign worker to get a job offer after landing in Riyadh or Jeddah. Most expats are recruited by private consultants or agents representing Saudi employers. One of the popular routes for entry is an intra-company transfer for an assignment to Saudi Arabia within a multinational corporation.
Processing of a work visa for Saudi Arabia takes 6 to 8 weeks. Prior to application, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission will verify your credentials, both from your school and licensing body, and stamp them with proof of authenticity. This process alone takes 2-4 weeks to complete. The visa application cannot be submitted to the Saudi Embassy without this crucial step being completed.
- Signed employment contract
- Original letter from the company in Saudi Arabia sponsoring the expatriate
- Completed Embassy visa application form
- Original passport with at least two adjacent blank visa pages available for visa stamps. The passport should be valid for the length of the employment contract
- Official transcripts and verification letter confirming foreign country registration credentials
- Signed Saudi Embassy Authorisation Memo allowing the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia to verify your professional credentials with your schools, past employers and licensing bodies, etc.
- Completed official Embassy Medical Report forms
- Original Police Clearance certificate
- 5 passport photos in colour, on a white background
- Copy of your exit visa, if you have previously worked in Saudi Arabia
The job market in this stellar-performing country is thriving, and one worthy of being explored in 2014.
Catching the attention of an international headhunter or recruiter can make all the difference in making your desired career move. Read our article, ‘5 Ways to Get Headhunters to Come to You‘ and learn more!