Monday, April 03, 2006

How Do I Get A Job In Dubai?

Ever since I started this blog, I've had a trickle of people asking that question either through the comments or via email. 'How do I get a job in Dubai?' I've been very happy to answer these enquiries, but lately the trickle has become more of a stream. I've had five such enquiries in the last week. So before the stream becomes a river, any future enquiries of this type will be referred to this post. Sorry an' all that, but time is short.

Remember, I'm just one guy, working in one industry. And despite what I used to tell my son when he was about five, I do not know everything. And half of the stuff that I think I know is actually just my opinion.

The answer to the number one question, how to get a job. Get your ass over here and knock on doors. There is a law here (I think) that says potential employers that you post or email your CV to are under no obligation to read it, and are absolutely forbidden from giving any kind of reply to it. So save the stamps, and when you have three and a half million of them, trade them in for an air ticket. The exception to this rule, of course, is if you see a job advertised in your own country.

The number two question: schools. Yes we have schools. For Westerners (the only flavour of people that write to me on this issue), you have a decent range of options, all of them expensive. For juniors, look at Jebel Ali Primary, Dubai English Speaking, Jumeirah English Speaking and Jumeirah Primary. Major secondary schools are Dubai College, English College, Jumeirah College and Emirates International School (International Baccalaureate). There are others, but the ones mentioned are the longest established. Expect to pay Dhs 30,000 to Dhs 60,000 a year, depending on the age of the child.

The number three question: look at my CV and tell me what I should be paid. I can't. But I can tell you that salaries tend to be stagnant - the idea of even a minimal 'cost of living' increment is pretty much unheard of, because officially there is no inflation (actually there is now, but the Gubment's idea of inflation over the last year - about 4% - bears no relation to the actuality - 30-45%). You need to look very closely at what your remuneration package includes. It used to be the norm that your company would pick up the tab for accommodation, a car, schooling, annual flights home for yourself and family, healthcare etc. These days, this kind of 'package' is increasingly rare - companies are tending to pay a flat salary and you have to sort everything else out for yourself. But working in Dubai is not easy - expect to work long hours, five, five-and-a-half or even six days a week. Don't expect to get any overtime pay.

And: the ultra-subjective question, is it as great as they say it is? Well, I don't know how great 'they' are saying it is. There are many plus points and a fair few minuses. Bear in mind that I am planning to leave in a bit over a year's time - I've had twelve years here, had some great times and some shite times, but really I've had enough.

The good stuff:
No income tax. Sales tax only on booze and meals in hotel restaurants. Affordable domestic help. Food is moderately cheap. Climate is brilliant from October to May. Cars are cheap. Petrol is insanely cheap. Modern, well-developed infrastructure. Safe environment, very little crime. Fantastic roads and interchanges. You're never far from a beach. You're also not far from the desert and mountains. Unbelievable growth. Vibrant multi-cultural society. The old soukhs, if you can get to them. Unlimited ambition.

The bad stuff:
Poor human rights record. Expensive telecoms, censored Internet. Erratic judicial system. The world's worst drivers live here (some of them not for long though). Congestion. Poor public transport (will change in about four years' time when the Metro is open). Shallow. Soulless. Superficial. Restricted job mobility. Vile weather in the summer. Uncontrolled inflation. Limited property ownership / investment opportunities for expats. Racism at all levels.

So I guess the answer is 'suck it and see'. One thing I'm sure of, there's nowhere like it on Earth, so come and have a look, at least.