Working in Qatar

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The construction industry employs thousands of workers in QatarMost expats relocating from the Western world find that working in Qatar involves a surprisingly smooth transition. According to the Qatari Information Exchange (QALM), foreigners made up over 90 percent of the emirate’s working population in 2012. As a result, English has actually replaced Arabic as the language of business and office environments can feel eerily familiar despite their distance from home.

The corporate culture in Qatar is interestingly eclectic, with the colleagues and clients expats will come into contact with on a daily basis likely to be from all over the world. That said, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that the work culture, communication style and standard practices from one's home country may clash with that of others.

Furthermore, Arabic work culture is largely different to that of the West. Expatriates moving to Qatar should take time to educate themselves about the ins and outs of doing business in Qatar and, beyond all else, shouldn't expect too much to happen too quickly.

Expats should be patient, sensitive and aware of the effect that cultural differences can have on office life.

Job market in Qatar

Whereas most of the multinationals and global corporations luring expats to the peninsula were concentrated in the petrochemical sector in the past, an ambitious and fairly liberal Qatari monarchy has stressed economic diversification, and taken steps to attract companies without natural gas or oil affiliations.

Qatar’s construction and real estate sectors continue to grow and, with the country hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, massive amounts have been invested in improving infrastructure and expanding the leisure and tourism sectors. This means that the already-large expat community will continue to increase over the years and the expat job market is expected to remain buoyant.

The emirate is not, however, a complete walk in the park for the eager expat. The salary packages may be attractive and the tax-free lifestyle is tempting, but professionals in Qatar are known to work notoriously long hours and apply themselves accordingly 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 relocating to Qatar don't need to search for a job because they've transferred from an overseas branch of the sponsoring company, or arrive with their position already secured. The difficulty in attaining a working visa in Qatar without a host sponsor is also a factor in limiting foreign unemployment.

That said, foreign hopefuls shouldn't have a hard time landing a good position if they have the right qualifications, especially if they have experience in the construction, oil and gas industries.

There are not as many local recruitment agencies as one might expect, however, the best job-hunting tactic is for expats to present their CV personally, and to get networking. Job vacancy listings 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 unfortunate downsides to working in the emirate is the fact that expats have little flexibility when it comes to changing jobs. Contracts in Qatar tend to be open-ended with clauses written in banning employees from beginning a new job without first leaving the country for six months.

Some employers feel justified in enforcing such strict rules because they invest large amounts of time and money convincing foreigners to relocate to the country in the first place. That said, it’s possible to work around these stipulations if an expats can secure the full support of their employer. However, it may still be necessary for expats to exit the country while they apply for new sponsorship – another bit of red tape that comes with moving between jobs in Qatar.

Expats wishing to switch jobs will need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their current employer, and will 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 standard work week in Qatar runs from Sunday to Thursday but work hours will vary depending on the employing organisation.

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.  

Across the board, however, work hours aren't usually negotiable and those in senior positions should expect to work overtime and on weekends.

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