The recent HSBC Expat Explorer survey revealed that the UAE was the second best place in the world to be an expatriate, following hot on the heels of Singapore.  In fact, when it comes to where you get the best lifestyle, earn the most, pay the least tax and perhaps have almost an unrivalled opportunity to find a good job at the moment, the Gulf States are top of the list.

If you want to work in the Gulf States this article will provide you with an introduction to the region and we’ll explore the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – i.e., Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain, as well as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Each location is unique, each offers a very different way of life and yet they all have one thing in common – a huge allure and desirability for would-be expatriates.  If you’re currently considering whether relocation abroad to live, work and save for a few years is a good option for you to further explore, the Gulf States are probably a good place to begin looking for opportunities.

The United Arab Emirates – UAE

Comprised of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain, the UAE has more expatriate professionals than it does local ones.  In fact, about 90% of the region’s professional and manual workforce is foreign, and the opportunities that abound across the region are almost limitless.

Certain emirates have more opportunities than others – for example, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are perhaps the most obvious two to target when looking for work abroad.  Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and generates about 60% of the entire UAE’s GDP, and it is rapidly advancing in terms of its competitiveness in the region.  It is developing a real estate sector, it has opportunities in the oil and gas industry, construction, education, IT and healthcare for example.  Dubai on the other hand is well known already.  It has one of the fastest growing populations in the world – fuelled by professional expatriates who are moving to Dubai to work and enjoy the inimitable lifestyle.

Opportunities for those seeking jobs in Dubai exist in many sectors such as banking and finance, telecommunications and IT, engineering, construction, media, management, tourism and education.  The lifestyle in Dubai is perhaps the most sophisticated and free available across all Gulf States, and what’s more, the emirate is really targeting international individuals in terms of the way it advances and develops.

Saudi Arabia

Before Dubai became the most popular Gulf State for expatriates to work in, Saudi Arabia probably took the title.  Saudi was a favourite destination for professionals in fields such as education, the oil industry and also the private sector.  However, the lifestyle in Saudi is very restrictive and expats live in compounds and have to respect that they are living in an alcohol free, conservative location.  Opportunities in Saudi still exist, the lifestyle within the international compounds can be fun, and there are no two ways about it, the amount of money you can earn in Saudi is excellent.  However, you really need to look closely at the realities of living in such a country before you commit to a contract there.  The restrictions of the strict society are no problem for some people, but others find the limitations and lack of personal freedom a real problem.


Recently dubbed the fastest growing financial centre in the world, Bahrain competes with Dubai for the title of being the freest of the Gulf States.  Expatriates living and working in Bahrain enjoy a very high standard of sophisticated living, a moderate government and plenty of opportunities to work hard and play harder!  Jobs abound in a broad range of sectors with the likes of banking and finance, IT and management coming very high up in terms of the employment sectors with the most positions available.


Kuwait seeks skilled workers in particular as it advances its infrastructure and generally develops – around 2 million of the country’s 3 million strong population are foreign born, and because the country is seeking to diversify and advance away from pure reliance on the energy sector, it is one to watch for opportunities.


The quality of life in Qatar is exceptionally high, couple this with the fact that it is one of the least taxed nations in the world and that expat salaries are nothing if not handsome on average, and you have the perfect combination of reasons to choose Qatar if you want to live and work abroad and bag most of your strong salary.  There are positions available in hospitality, education, management, accountancy, healthcare, engineering, finance, sales and even the airline business – therefore Qatar is certainly worth a look.


Oman has over half a million expatriate residents and its international population is rising annually.  As the nation seeks to find alternative economic sectors to concentrate on for its long-term diversification plans, this means that there are advancing opportunities in Oman and it is a location to consider carefully.  The industrial employment sector is a strong employer at the moment, but the likes of IT and telecommunications are advancing areas to consider.

If you’re serious about working abroad and earning a high salary, paying minimal tax and maximising the financial aspects of your expatriate status, the Gulf States are probably your number one choice.  Whichever nation, emirate or state you choose depends a little on personal preference and a great deal on finding the right job and the right employment package.  The best place to begin your targeted research is at the Opportunities Dubai & Gulf States Expo in London in March.