International jobseekers eye roles in Saudi Arabia amidst COVID-19 recession: Experts

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International jobseekers are increasingly applying for roles within Saudi Arabia as they look to escape a post-pandemic slump and secure a position in one of the Kingdom’s rapidly expanding sectors, according to analysts.

Sectors seeing a surge of interest include property, sales and marketing, healthcare, and consultancy roles for some of the Kingdom’s most ambitious large-scale projects created as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic reform plans.

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The plan – put forth by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – aims to diversify the country’s economy and establish millions of new jobs.

Several recruitment and HR specialists in the region have told Al Arabiya English they are seeing a surge in interest in roles within the Kingdom from job hunters from the Middle East region and the international market, such as Europe.

More people than ever are seeking to land a job in a market they see as both safe and with attractive remuneration as they look to escape a lack of opportunities in the home country amid a global recission following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jagdish Bal, business manager of property and construction at Middle East recruitment specialist Michael Page, told Al Arabiya English that COVID-19 has had a hugely negative influence on the global economy.

“It’s been a crisis unlike any other, with businesses and schools closing, borders closing, and half of mankind being put under lockdown in the spring of 2020.”

The pandemic, he said, has undoubtedly thrown the global economy into a deep, but thankfully brief, recession.

“For example, some countries have not had any lockdowns, but the economy has been harmed because of the neighboring countries and everything coming to a standstill.”

“People were afraid of catching COVID-19 at the period, and this dread kept them from going anywhere,” Bal added.

He also said the pandemic has led to job hunters eyeing up roles in countries that have bounced back quicker post-pandemic.

“Job seekers, candidates, and families from across the Middle East and the world are migrating to Saudi Arabia due to the promising economic opportunities.”

“Saudi Arabia has several ambitious development projects in the works aligned with achieving the Vision 2030 in the Kingdom. These developments will not only strengthen the Kingdom’s standing as a global hub but will also improve the quality of life in the country.”

“As these initiatives begin to take shape, many applicants are considering relocating to Saudi Arabia, to explore career opportunities in a variety of industries such as property and construction.”

Attractive benefits

There is a variety of reasons on why expats want to relocate to Saudi Arabia, said Bal.

International jobseekers are increasingly applying for roles within Saudi Arabia. (Unsplash)
International jobseekers are increasingly applying for roles within Saudi Arabia. (Unsplash)

“Reasons include financial opportunities. Salaries are tax-free, which is a significant benefit knowing that in many countries, taxes typically amount to 40-50 percent of their income.”

“Secondly, working on infrastructure projects like the ones currently underway in Saudi Arabia, will demonstrate to future companies your capacity to work within different cultures and adapting to different ways of doing business”

“Living and working in Saudi Arabia is a one-of-a-kind experience as you will get to experience new infrastructure and the application of advanced technologies,” Bal added.

Aaron Fletcher, business manager for Saudi Arabia at Hays recruiting experts, said, since the launch of the 2030 vision, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as “one of the most exciting countries to work in the world today.”

“With aspirations to become a global leader within investment, tourism and trade, Saudi Arabia is able to offer life changing job opportunities for both the expats and nationals."

"The Saudi government has so far investment billions of dollars into the entertainment and tourism sectors, initiating the development of multiple ‘giga-projects’ that are creating thousands of jobs and supporting economic diversification – set to expand the country’s revenue streams away from its reliance of oil and gas."

“These giga-projects are world firsts, they are absolutely iconic to Saudi Arabia - exceptional in size, structure, vision and to have a huge impact on local and global communities. The ambitions of Saudi Arabia are unrivalled and those who choose to live and work in the country can be assured a high quality of living.”

Premium salaries

One of the many benefits of relocating to Saudi Arabia is the salary package on offer, said Fletcher.

“Saudi Arabia are trying to attract the best talent from all over the globe to help support them in achieving their goals and are willing to pay a premium to attain this.

“Being tax free, salaries can be more than double of what professionals would earn in their home country.”

Standard packages include basic salary, transportation allowance and housing allowance, which are paid in one lump sum, and benefits including a flight home per year and full medical insurance are provided by all employers in accordance with local labour law.

It is common that employers will also provide child education fees, relocation fees and lucrative bonus’s, all to ensure that they can access the best talent, added Fletcher.

“Relocating to Saudi Arabia is also relatively easy providing expats have a job. Visa’s are usually processed within two weeks of arrival by employers and logistically, the country has excellent transport links to the rest of the world, making access to and from home countries – no matter where they be - very straightforward. “

Expats can also expect a high standard of living with good salaries, luxury accommodation and year-round sun, as well as access to a rapidly emerging entertainment and attractions sector, said Fletcher.

General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 21 2020. (Reuters)
General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 21 2020. (Reuters)

“Many of the expats we place in the Kingdom reside in large, multi-cultural, family-friendly compounds that can be compared to holiday villages, offering an array of restaurants, shops, leisure centres, swimming pools, and much more. For those with children, education facilities are also world-class. There are a range of international schools to choose from, all offering international curriculum.

“Those relocating to Saudi Arabia will have to become accustomed to a new way of life but, with the hospitable nature of the Saudi people and their vision for the future, they can be assured that they will enjoy their stay there.”

Chris Rea, senior manager of technology at Michael Page, said he has noticed a surge of interest in technology roles in the Kingdom.

“We have seen an increase in international candidates that are willing and able to move to Saudi Arabia, in some cases this may even involve leaving the nuclear family in the home country,” he told Al Arabiya English.

“This interest has been caused by a range of reasons. Firstly, the number of large-scale projects in Saudi Arabia where a company, concept or even industry are being grown from scratch (E.g., international tourism didn’t exist four years ago).”

“A lot of the work is truly interesting for expats to use their experience of creating from scratch but now within a completely new environment.”

A promising future

Pay and stability are two other factors, he said.

“With the expectations and timelines of projects set to continue at pace for the next three to 10 years there is an opportunity to stay in an organization for a significant period and earn well (tax free) to contribute to retirement plans.”

Compared to Saudi Arabia, the UAE is relatively built with comparatively fewer projects with shorter timelines, said Rea.

“When it comes to jobs in technology, there is a huge opportunity due to the demand for cloud services is increasing in Saudi Arabia, the need for implementation of cybersecurity frameworks and with smart city technology required for real estate projects.”

Jamie Gilbert, manager of PMO and strategy at Michael Page, said candidates are increasingly looking at Saudi Arabia for strategy career opportunities, “especially for upfront strategy/build phase consultants.”

“Moreover, many of the strategy houses and Big Four consulting firms are reporting that most of their client engagement work is in Saudi Arabia,” Gilbert added. “Therefore, we have candidates already comfortable with the idea of moving to the Kingdom as many of them have been stationed there for some time through their work with consultancies.”

Valentin Demande, manager of sales and marketing and of healthcare and life sciences at Michael Page, also agreed that job seekers in the region or internationally are increasingly looking at opportunities in Saudi Arabia since COVID 19 hit.

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“Indeed, Saudi Arabia offers a lot of growth opportunities from entry level to senior executive roles and across sectors. Moreover, the pandemic has adversely impacted other markets (like Europe and Africa) leading to company-wide restructures and job losses – all these factors are making candidates more open to relocating to Saudi Arabia for the right opportunity.”

Read more:

Saudization of remote customer service jobs comes into effect in Saudi Arabia

Everything you need to know about Saudi’s Vision 2030 five-year progress: Report

Majority of businesses in the Gulf have recovered from impacts of COVID-19: Report

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