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Working in Jeddah?

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Javier Vazquez

Living in Saudi Arabia, from Mexico

"I met some great Mexican people to spend my after-work hours with, so I immediately felt at home here in Jeddah."

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Living in Saudi Arabia, from USA

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Jeddah at a Glance

Working in Jeddah

Are you wondering if working in Jeddah would be a good career move? The InterNations expatriate guide to Jeddah introduces the country’s and the city’s economy, strategies for foreign job seekers, and financial advice for expats in Saudi Arabia.

As mentioned elsewhere in our InterNations guide, e.g. in the article on working in Saudi Arabia, oil obviously dominates the Saudi economy. However, expats working in Jeddah and other major cities do not always work for petrochemical companies.

The National Economy

Several sectors of Saudi Arabia’s industry are expanding right now. There is a high demand for industrial machinery and equipment. Mining, aluminum and steel production are going strong as well. But it’s the construction sector that is developing at the most impressive pace. In 2011, it grew by nearly 12%, and in 2012, it increased by another 10%. Moreover, owing to Saudi Arabia’s increasing population, there is a huge domestic market for consumer goods and medical services. However, unemployment among the young Saudi populace, as well as general unrest in the Arab World, seems to have influenced private consumption in a somewhat negative way.

According to experts, the country’s future growth sectors will probably include vehicle engineering, energy production and distribution, as well as waste disposal and recycling. These trends will also influence the employment opportunities for people working in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia still needs to deal with several issues that could hamper its prosperity. There is a distinct lack of Saudi laborers and employees in the private sector. Of course, this means more jobs for expats working in Jeddah, Riyadh, or the Eastern Province. In the long term, though, the country’s citizens need to be better integrated into the workforce. The “Saudization” quotas and categories for companies that took effect in 2013 are an official attempt to provide more job opportunities for locals.

The government has already done a lot to remove bureaucratic obstacles for entrepreneurs; however, observers criticize the lack of due process for foreign investors or employees involved in legal battles. Last but not least, considering the political situation in the Middle East, socio-political reforms are probably overdue. Expatriates living and working in Jeddah are surely following these developments with great interest.

The Local Economy

By working in Jeddah, you will settle in one of Saudi Arabia’s most important economic centers, the most significant in the western region. Although the area around Jeddah doesn’t boast big oil resources, a pipeline connects it to the large oilfields of the Eastern Province. Therefore oil refining and export do play a major role for those working in Jeddah. Furthermore, there are several mining projects, quarries, and power plants in the region, too.

However, it is the strategic location that provides excellent economic opportunities for people working in Jeddah. The city has a large commercial port with 58 piers, a shipyard, a storage area, and a re-export zone. Trade and commerce, as well as logistics, shipping, packaging, and storage, are essential for the local economy. This success is partly due to everyone working in Jeddah’s transport companies.

Due to its proximity to Islam’s Holy Cities, Jeddah has always been a major stop for devout Muslims performing the hajj to Mecca and Medina. Today, an estimated 500,000 pilgrims enter Saudi Arabia via Jeddah every year. The city also hosts a number of trade fairs, such as the Saudi International Motor Show, Propac Arabia (processing and packacking), Machinex (machinery and equipment), and Beyond Beauty Arabia.

Hospitality is big business in the area. Expats interesting in working in Jeddah’s tourism industry should note, though, that the percentage of Saudis is fairly high in this sector. So, it’s worth looking into other fields, e.g. Jeddah’s construction business, finance and real estate, ICT, food processing, or social services. The latter – i.e. education and healthcare – is actually the main job opportunity for Saudi and foreign women working in Jeddah.

Planned Developments

Expatriates with expertise or professional experience in urban development might soon find themselves working in Jeddah. There are several ambitious infrastructure projects under way. For example, the Saudi Landbridge is supposed to connect Jeddah to the Persian Gulf; a high-speed railway line is going to link Mecca and Medina; the King Abdullah Economic City will feature industrial enterprises, finance companies, educational institutions, and centers for science and technology.

The Economic City will also be connected to King Abdullah Industrial Port. Construction works for the Middle East’s first private cargo port began in 2011. When the state-of-the-art project in Raleigh is finished, it will be strong competition for those working in Jeddah’s seaport to the south.

Yanbu al Bahr

For some expats, working in Jeddah’s metro area can mean moving all the way to Yanbu al Bahr, 350 km to the north. In the 1970s, a Royal Commission designated this small town to serve as an industrial district and cargo port. Today, Yanbu has several refineries, a plastics factory, a cement factory, a gas plant, and a desalination facility.

The city houses a sizable foreign population composed of non-Saudi Arabs, Turkish residents, and people from various countries in South Asia, Europe, and North America. Well-off expats settle in one of Yanbu’s gated communities, The Cove or Arabian Homes. They send their children to Yanbu International School and spend their leisure time at Mövenpick’s five-star beach resort. Their life tends to be somewhat claustrophobic, in comparison to that of expats working in Jeddah.

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