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Working in Qatar
Find out how to get a job and work in Qatar
Find out all you need to know about the job search, business etiquette, and pensions in Qatar and get ready for this professional challenge. The petrochemical industry, a booming tourism sector, and thriving business services offer various opportunities for expats working in Qatar.
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Employment in Qatar
While working in Qatar is an attractive option for various reasons, the country’s thriving economy also makes it an attractive location for foreign investors. Many companies from abroad have opened branch offices here, creating more work opportunities for foreign residents.
However, it’s not only the petroleum and gas industry that offers expats opportunities for working in Qatar. Since 2000 the tourism sector has grown significantly, supported by the Tourism Authority. Many expats have found an occupation which allows them to enjoy the country’s beautiful beaches, subtropical climate, and desert landscape. The FIFA World Cup 2022 will trigger additional developments in the tourism industry, giving expats and Qatari nationals further employment opportunities.
Qatar’s Petrochemical Industry
Most people working in Qatar, however, have found employment in the gas and petroleum sector. Dukhan and Ras Laffan Industrial City play an important role in the petrochemical industry and have contributed greatly to the country’s economic development in recent years.
Ras Laffan is situated north of Doha and is the biggest natural gas deposit in the world. Dukhan is where the development of the petroleum sector began, and is thus the foundation of the country’s current economy. Today Dukhan is still the center of on-shore petroleum production in Qatar.
Healthcare in Qatar
Employees in Qatar do not benefit from obligatory social insurance, as a state-wide system does not exist. Instead, the Gulf States fund welfare programs through revenues thanks to their high GDP.
Hence, nationals working in Qatar automatically receive medical care, maternity coverage, child care, state pension, and other kinds of welfare benefits. While expats have access to all kinds of medical facilities, they are not eligible for any sort of social benefits.
Employers may cover the healthcare costs for foreign nationals in Qatar and provide them with medical insurance. If this is not the case, you need to invest into private health insurance yourself. The InterNations guide on Living in Qatar offers more information on the Qatari healthcare system.
As is the case with social insurance, the government does not offer a state pension to expats working in Qatar. However, government institutions and international companies sometimes provide corporate pension schemes to which their employees can contribute.
If possible, you can also keep contributing to the pension scheme of your home country or purchase a personal pensions plan for the time you will be working in Qatar. This investment will guarantee that your assignment in Qatar will not have a negative effect on your retirement years.
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Doing Business in Qatar
Expats have the best chance of finding work through international recruitment agencies or through their own company via foreign assignment. They are more likely to secure a substantially higher salary and negotiate better work conditions this way, than if they tried to secure a job after arriving in Qatar.
Jobs and Employers
When it comes to choosing the right employer, big international companies in particular provide great benefits for expats. Government posts, on the other hand, offer more attractive working hours with 5-day work weeks instead of 5½ or 6 days. However, government jobs in Qatar, just like everywhere around the world, come with high levels of bureaucracy.
Small companies and start-ups are not the best choice for expats who rely on their work in order to hold on to their residence permit. If the company goes under, foreign employees will be forced to leave Qatar and return back to their country of origin immediately.
Those who are not sure which kind of work they are looking into should avoid jobs forcing them to work outside, especially if they are not used to the climate. In summer, temperatures can rise up to 50°C, making the work unbearable. Although there is a temperature limit above which people are not allowed to work, this rule is hardly ever enforced.
Business Etiquette in Qatar
Although Qataris are used to dealing with foreign business partners and negotiating business matters in English, expats should always prepare material and paperwork in Arabic. As they are very proud of their cultural heritage and tradition, Qataris appreciate it if their business partners know a few phrases in Arabic.
The work pace is slightly slower than what most Western expats may be used to. Instead of getting right to the point, Qataris take their time to establish personal relationships with their business partners. It is important to stay relaxed and go with the flow. During these informal conversations, remember to enquire after the well-being of your business partner’s family, as the family always has highest priority in Arab culture. However, enquiring directly after the wife or other female family members of a Qatari businessman can be a faux pas and should be avoided.
One last point which plays a major role within the Arab business world is the concept of hospitality. Qataris like to invite their business partners to their house for lunch or dinner. Men and women are usually separated during these events. Expats should never refuse any of the food or beverages offered to them, such as the Arabian coffee which is often consumed during informal business meetings. Expats should have at least one cup of coffee before gently swirling the cup and thereby signifying that they are done with it.
Businesswomen should be treated with the utmost respect. This also means that expats should not shake a woman’s hand unless she offers to do so. Many Qatari women usually try to avoid being alone in a room with a man other than their husband. Expats have to respect it if a Qatari businesswoman insists on the presence of another man during a private business meeting.
Sponsorship and Work Contracts in Qatar
Expats who wish to work in Qatar require a sponsor to do so. This sponsor is typically their employer. Expats can only work for their sponsor and for nobody else for at least two years. After that time period and with a clearance letter from their sponsor, they are allowed to find a new employer and transfer their sponsorship.
Expats should choose their sponsors wisely as they have a lot of power over foreign employees. For instance, they can refuse to issue the necessary exit visa which allows expats to leave Qatar or ban them from returning to the country for two years. However, there are limits. Sponsors cannot hold on to their foreign worker’s passports, for example, unless they need to complete important paperwork.
Sponsoring your Family
Once expats have found a sponsor, they are in turn allowed to sponsor their own family. For instance, fathers can sponsor their sons until they are 25 (if they are still students) and their daughters until they get married.
However, you have to receive a certain salary and save up some money in order to sponsor your family. Many expats will have to travel ahead to have their own residence visa processed before they can bring their family along. This may take up to two or three months.
Be sure you have a clear understanding of the financial challenges an assignment in Qatar may bring. While all salary payments are tax free, the cost of living can be comparatively high. Many foreign employees have struggled to get by on their salary. Others have sent their family back home when they realized that they could not cover the costs.
Employment Contracts in Qatar
Work contracts are a tricky business in Qatar. Many expats never receive a contract or never get to sign it. In other cases, foreign workers agreed on certain conditions only to find out that their contract was changed upon their arrival in Qatar.
Each work contract has to be attested by the Department of Labor. Contracts may be written in English as well as in Arabic. Do not rely only on the English version, as only the Arabic one is referred to by the Department of Labor in case of a disagreement between employer and employee.
Know Your Rights
Foreign workers and employees are subject to Qatari labor law and enjoy certain rights. For instance, employees should work no more than 6 days per week. More than 8 hours of work should be paid extra, and employees should not have to work more than 10 hours per day at all.
In reality, however, these rules are often disregarded. If this is the case, you can report the situation to the nearest labor department. Make sure to refer to the Qatar Labor Law in order to support your complaint.
Expats should be especially careful when consulting international recruitment agencies. In some cases, these agencies have charged expats a hefty fee for placing them within a company. Their debt-ridden candidates often realize too late that their Qatari jobs do not pay enough to cover the costs. The creditors often put a lot of pressure on these workers, not shying away from threatening their families.
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