Working in Qatar

Most expats find that working in Qatar involves a surprisingly smooth transition. Foreigners make up most of the population and English has largely replaced Arabic as the language of business. Despite its distance from home, the Qatari workplace can feel eerily familiar.

Colleagues and clients from all over the world mean that the business culture in Qatar is eclectic. However, cultural norms from different countries might clash when it comes to things like communication styles, and Arabic work culture is very different to the West.

Expats should educate themselves about doing business in Qatar but shouldn't expect too much to happen too quickly. Being patient, sensitive and aware of the effects cultural differences can have on office life will help smooth the transition.

Job market in Qatar

Whereas most of the corporations luring expats to the peninsula used to be in the petrochemical sector, the Qatari monarchy has stressed economic diversification and growth in other industries.

Construction and real estate continue to grow and massive amounts have been invested in improving infrastructure and the tourism sector in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup. This means that the number of foreigners is expected to keep increasing as the expat job market expands.

Working in Qatar is not without its challenges. The salary packages are attractive and tax-free living is tempting, but employees in Qatar work notoriously long hours to earn their riyals. Some companies even enforce a one-and-a-half day weekend, instead of the regular two days.

Finding a job in Qatar

Most expats don't need to look for a job in Qatar because they have already secured a position or were transferred from overseas. The difficulty in getting a Qatari work visa without a host sponsor is a large factor in limiting the amount of unemployed foreigners in the country.

Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult for foreign hopefuls with the right qualifications to get a job, especially if they have experience in the construction, oil and gas industries.

There are not that many local recruitment agencies and the best job-hunting tactic is often for expats to present their CV personally, and to get networking. Vacancies can also be found in the daily Gulf Times and Peninsula newspapers; otherwise, international recruitment agencies are a good option.

Changing jobs in Qatar

One of the downsides to working in Qatar is the fact that changing jobs can be difficult. Employment contracts in Qatar often have clauses that ban employees from starting a new job in the country without first leaving for six months.

Some employers feel these rules are justified because they invest time and money bringing foreign workers into the country. It is possible to work around these stipulations but an expat would need the full support of their employer. Even then it may be necessary to exit the country while applying for new sponsorship.

Expats wanting to switch jobs will need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their current employer and need to make sure that their new employer is willing to sponsor them – it is illegal to be in Qatar without a formal sponsor.

Working hours in Qatar

The work week in Qatar runs from Sunday to Thursday but hours vary between companies. Working hours in Qatar aren't usually negotiable and expats in senior positions should expect to work overtime and on weekends.

Banks, schools and government agencies often favour beginning and ending the day early, running from 7.30am to 3.30pm. Shops and trading companies may opt for dividing their day between 8am to 1pm, and 4pm to 7pm. On the other hand, corporations and small-business owners may enforce a more standardised work day from 8.30am to 5.30pm.