Brits are lured by life in Gulf

Britain has a long history in the Gulf and many British nationals have lived here for decades. New expatriates are also moving to the region attracted by the scale of developments being undertaken. CW learns about the contribution British professionals make in the region, and the challenges they face when working here.

  • E-Mail
By  Colin Foreman Published  February 26, 2005

Brits are lured by life in Gulf |~||~||~|It is important to remember that it is not just British companies working in the Gulf. British nationals also play a crucial role in many of the region’s construction projects, and don’t just work for British companies, as they often work for local companies and other international companies. While some may not regard the Gulf as the best place to live and work, the tax-free salaries, warm winters and opportunity to explore new lands and cultures does attract many. Most expatriates are employed on traditional expatriate contracts where they receive a gross package that does not include a disturbance allowance for relocating or other benefits such as UK pension contributions. On the other hand, some companies second staff to the region from the UK and pay them large salaries with a disturbance allowance, to overcome the costs of living in a foreign country. “Expats employed on contracts like these typically earn 30 to 40% more than a traditional expat hire,” says Matthew Carter, head of property and construction, ITP Consulting. The same can be said of British architects, who are typically very expensive, although there are some British architects in the region who tend to be heads of practice. Because these packages can be so expensive, some companies prefer not to second a large amount of people from the UK. The situation is even more difficult at the moment due to the weakness of the US dollar. Although the roles that British nationals take on are varied, some professions are traditionally more British than others. “Many of the British nationals are the traditionally British professions like quantity surveying, but only at commercial, management or senior project surveyor level. They tend not to be employed at levels lower than that because they are normally Sri Lankan and Indian hires,” says Carter. “People employed in these senior positions are paid in the region of US $9500-12 300, or about AED35-45000 per month, which is pretty good for a gross package,” he adds. Project management is another field where British professionals are also often sought after. “There is a need for project managers with the specialist project management companies because they normally require Western training,” says Carter. For younger professionals the draw of major projects may also be an important factor. “As long as you join a reputable company, this is still a great place to come as a junior PM bite your teeth on your first international project because the projects here are exceptional,” says Carter. The Gulf is very different to Britain, and some people struggle to get to grips with the way that business is done here. “If they go to international companies then there isn’t a problem because the management style is comparable to that found in Britain, but the regional companies tend to have more of an audit trail and red tape than many people from Britain are used to. But once they get used to it, they are normally very effective,” says Carter. “On the other hand, many of the British expats have come from Asia, or other parts of the Gulf, and have no problem at all adjusting to the way the market operates. The problems tend to occur when people who are new to working overseas move into regionally managed companies. When they do, then you have to work with them prior to you coming on board to explain how business is done out here. In fact I probably wouldn’t recommend someone going to a company like that to start their international focus,” adds Carter. As far as qualifications are concerned, MRICS (Member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) is well recognised, as it is now more or less a worldwide qualification. “A chartered engineer or a first degree in civil engineering from a British university are regarded well, and on the architectural front, people like to see an RIAB or a similar professional qualification. Other qualifications like the MCIARB still don’t have the gravitas that they do in the UK; instead, other qualifications like an MBA can be a real driver, particularly with the developers,” says Carter. British professionals tend to be less sought by developers around the Gulf because the development model that has been adopted in the Gulf is starkly different to the way the UK has developed. “The development model used in the Gulf is more like the ones used in South East Asia for places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, so many people from Britain don’t have the relevant experience,” says Carter. “A project like Canary Wharf on your resumé is not perceived as well as something like a commercial development in Malaysia,” he adds. Although there are still a lot of British expats working in the region, the volume of British people coming to work here is falling. A lot of the British hires are people moving from one company to another as opposed to new people coming into the region. “There are a number of reasons why the number of new British expats has fallen. It is partly because the economy in Britain has been booming over the last few years, and partly because the rates offered here aren’t attractive enough unless you get an internal transfer,” says Carter. “Other factors also come into play, like schooling. There just aren’t enough school spaces at the moment, and because most people are paid in gross packages that don’t pay school fees, it can be very difficult,” adds Carter. Despite these problems, the Gulf is still considered by the majority of those who are already here as a good place in which to live and work. All in all, the British professionals working in the Gulf are held in high regard and have a long history in the region. But it is important to remember that they don’t run the companies or the agencies that are developing the region’s construction projects. The Emiratis and other nationals of the Gulf are passionate about their future and British professionals are helping to facilitate that growth and support them in their aims. “You find a lot of expats that rise to the number two roles, and quite frequently the general manager of a local contracting company is an expatriate hire, but there is a level they don’t get beyond,” says Carter. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code