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  • Javier Vazquez

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

Employment in Jeddah

  • An economy that used to be based solely on oil, the Saudi Arabian economy now thrives thanks to its construction industry. Jeddah is one of the most important economic centers in Saudi Arabia.
  • Expat life in Jeddah comes with its perks, so make sure you explore your options and analyze your contract to ensure you’re getting what you are entitled to.
  • Research your options for minimizing taxation on things like capital interest before moving to Jeddah because it is only your income from a Saudi source that remains tax-free.

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 Saudi hubs do not always work for petrochemical companies.

A Nation of Prosperity

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 and thus may be the best place for expats to find work. Between 2011 and 2015, it grew by 6.35%, and between 2016 and 2020, it is expected to grow by another 7.05%. 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 living and 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 much 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 constantly new and changing developments with great interest.

Jeddah: The Economic Center

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 600,000 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. An expat interested 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. Education and healthcare provide the main job opportunities for Saudi and foreign women working in Jeddah.

The Future of the Economic City

Expatriates with expertise or professional experience in urban development could soon find themselves working in Jeddah. There are several ambitious infrastructure projects under way and new ones keep arising. 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.

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 often settle in one of Yanbu’s gated communities, such as The Cove or Arabian Homes. They frequently send their children to Yanbu International School and spend their leisure time at Mövenpick’s five-star beach resort. However, their life tends to be somewhat claustrophobic, in comparison to that of expats working in Jeddah.

Jeddah: Jobs, Salaries, Social Security

The Job Search: Tricks of the Trade

Lots of expats working in Jeddah arrive in Saudi Arabia as part of an intra-company transfer. Others plan on going to the country on their own. Some would like to gain some professional experience in the Middle East, while some feel the lure of a tax-free salary beckon. If you are looking for work in Jeddah, there are several strategies you might give a try.

There are dozens of general consulates in the city, many of which have an office dedicated to business promotion. If you contact the consulate, they may be able and willing to give you a list of Jeddah-based companies affiliated with your home country. The foreign chambers of commerce in Saudi Arabia often provide membership directories for a fee. In this way, you can secure the contact details of various companies in the Jeddah area.

You can also ask the foreign business associations in town or the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce for a similar favor. Quite a few local businesses are, however, family-owned Saudi SMEs. They may not be that interested in hiring an unknown foreigner. If they prove willing to make an exception for you, a decent knowledge of Arabic is a must.

You will have the edge over your competitors if you have specialist knowledge in a specific field or if you are acquainted with the market, laws, language, and culture of Saudi Arabia’s major trading partners. Lots of imports that pass through Jeddah’s port come from China, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the UAE, and the United States. Also, foreign financiers from these countries and other nations, e.g. the Netherlands, the UK, or Gulf Cooperation Council member states have invested heavily in Saudi companies. Expats from these states may have certain advantages during the job search.

Prices and Perks

Once you have an employment offer for Jeddah, you should take some time to review your contract. Not only do you need an official translation of the Arabic original, but you should also pay attention to your salary and perks. The local cost of living in Jeddah is lower than in many other cities throughout the Middle-East. However, since a lot of expats do move there for financial reasons, they want to earn more than just enough to make ends meet. Although the period of generous expat packages seems to be more or less over, there are three aspects of your remuneration where negotiating can pay off.

First, most employers offer their expat employees a health insurance policy for Saudi Arabia. Take the time to read the fine print of your insurance plan very carefully. Our guide to healthcare for expats in Jeddah lists some things to watch out for. If you consider the proposed healthcare package insufficient for you and your family, get back to your employer on this matter.

Second, expat housing is mostly limited to compounds, which are more expensive than normal accommodation. Although Jeddah is in the midst of a property boom, the current property shortage means that rental costs are high and keep rising. A two-bedroom compound apartment costs at least SAR 110,000 per year. Depending on the size and amenities of your new home, you can easily spend twice as much. Make sure that a substantial part of these expenses is covered by a housing allowance.

Lastly, expatriate families with older children usually send them to international schools. Again, this is a costly endeavor. For instance, tuition fees for the American International School of Jeddah amount to a maximum of over SAR 62,000 a year. So do not hesitate to ask if you contract includes financial provisions for your kids’ education.

Taxation and Social Security

While working in Jeddah, you do not have to pay a single Saudi Riyal in income tax. However, it is only your income from Saudi sources that remains tax-free. If you have an income back home country – e.g. capital interest or rental yields – it will be subject to that country’s tax laws. Before leaving for Jeddah, you should talk to an international tax advisor about filing your tax returns from abroad and exploring potential options for tax minimization.

Moreover, you should remember that just like public healthcare, Saudi Arabia’s social security system excludes foreign residents. You are not entitled to any old-age pensions or disability benefits, based on living and working in Jeddah. Again, it is best to deal with possible consequences long before your actual move. Get in touch with your social security office and your financial services provider to discuss financial provisions for your retirement years. You will have to save part of your salary in order to compensate for the lack of social security coverage.

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  • Javier Vazquez

    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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    InterNations is a very good mix of professional setting and casual atmosphere. Expats on InterNations have and share a global mindset.

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