'No one wants to work in Saudi Arabia, Qatar': builders

Gulf construction firms are forking out ‘premiums’ to lure workers to the less attractive countries

Construction companies are struggling to attract workers to the growing markets of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, putting some projects under financial strain, executives have revealed.

Many construction firms and developers who have played a key role in building Dubai during the past decade are now also expanding into the emerging neighbouring markets, where Saudi Arabia is ploughing billions of oil money into housing, infrastructure and hospitality and Qatar is spending a similar amount boosting its international appeal and preparing for the 2022 World Cup.

But the widespread and rapid demand is clogging access to building supplies as well as labourers.

Arabtec chief operating officer Nabil Al Kindi said the majority of expatriate workers – which make up a significant majority of the construction workforce – were reluctant to move to Saudi Arabia or Qatar, particularly if they were already living in the more attractive Dubai.

“We have a challenge bringing the right people into Qatar because most of the best want to be in Dubai,” Al Kindi said.

“Everyone I ask ‘can we move you to Saudi Arabia or Qatar’ [they reply], ‘no I want to be here in Dubai, if that’s not an option there are other companies I can work with’. So I think that’s a challenge.”

Arabtec group chief operating officer Mark Andrews said the company had to pay “a premium” to get people to work in Saudi Arabia, where there were fewer freedoms and entertainment than in places such as Dubai.

However, Al Kindi said there were plenty of people happy to accept the compensation.

“Some people like to go to Saudi and go and live there with their families. But ... some of the people [you can] give them anything but they [don’t want to live there], which is a challenge, that’s a fact of life we have,” Al Kindi said.

“But for those who go there I think they enjoy it, they love it, they get compensated by it.”

Al Kindi said the cost of living in Qatar was about 20 percent greater than in Dubai, while the state had less entertainment and lower living standards for many.

Roger Nickells, Middle East managing director of engineering firm Buro Happold, whose projects include the new international airport in Doha, said his company faced similar difficulties finding appropriate staff but he was able to mitigate it somewhat by working with international firms, having a physical presence in their offices and then importing work back to the Gulf.

“Quality of staff is a big issue and a big issue for us whether we’re working in Saudi Arabia [or] whether we’re working in Qatar,” he said.

Atkins, a UK-based company involved in the design and project management of numerous projects across the Gulf, has moved 400-500 people into Qatar in the past 18 months.

Commercial director Simon Crispe said the company had faced several human resource issues, including the standard of education and quality of life.

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Posted by: jake

saudi Arabia is good place to live
Ppl are so nice

Posted by: believer38

Initially it seems difficult to live in Saudi Arabia, I know filippino nationals who were working in Saudi Arabia left Saudi on vcacation and joined other company in Dubai. The result after one year no savings due to the reason that every thing is open so what they earn they spend. But in Saudi Arabia the only thing they spend was once every month shopping and spending their time mostly on sport activity. Finally they send a letter to their previous company and asked if they can send them a new employment visa which they did.

Posted by: Md. Hussain

Really Saudi Arabia is good place to live with peace and happy. One who living here they only can understand the value of this land.

Posted by: Matt Williams

Oldtimer: I have been to Saudi on many occassions and have not found it as bad as people have said however your comments are deeply ignorant and over generalised ref 'Western Lands' Europefor eg has such stunning countryside, its rich in business, heritage and culture. KSA seems to have a great deal of sand! Perhaps as far as morality and hypocrisy are concerned why don?t you ask your fellow countrymen that I see drunk in Bahrain going into dubious clubs what they feel. As per usual your double standards are all too obvious to see ?.Hypocrisy?, yes totally!

Posted by: Lee

I agree about the great things of Saudia but after working and managing 12-16 hrs, are you willing to come home and then find out there is no milk because your wife couldn't go out and grocery shop let alone find a job. Do you know how frustrating it is to be home confined 24 hrs. And we aren't even talking about the infrastructure of the kingdom. Remember the article is about people who have a choice. I wouldn't move to Saudia if I can stay in Dubai.

Posted by: Oldtimer

Yet most of your countrymen crave to somehow get to the ungodly western lands, where Morals are in short supply, alcohol flows freely, drugs available at street corners, and widespread mixing of the sexes is commonplace! WHAT ABSOLUTE HYPOCRISY!

Posted by: Imtiaz Hussain

I agree with this comment. Fact is there is little crime in Saudi Arabia as it is a blessed land with strict punishment. Moral values are also high and it is a great place to raise one's children as they are protected from ills like alcohol, drugs and free mixing which are prevalent in the West and even in places like Dubai.

Saudi Arabia is not a place partygoers will like, but it is a place that families bringing up children will find ideal

Posted by: Alex

Saudi is like any other country, it is what you make of it when you're there. I'm Western and I loved being in KSA, as do many other expats there. Let's make judgments based on experience rather than hearsay please.

Posted by: The Consultant

Alex, as someone who has spent a fair bit of time in KSA I would quibble with the statement that "Saudi is like any other country". It's certainly not like any other country I've ever experienced, and I consider myself to be fairly well-travelled.

But regardless, when it comes to trying to persuade people to move to a new country, perception is fact. There is a widespread belief that KSA is a strange/boring/oppressive/difficult place to live and unless that can somehow be changed then companies will continue to have to either compromise on the quality of staff they hire or pay signifcantly higher salary and benefits to get people to move there.

Posted by: Qatari

You have this article and the "Qatar should give FIFA back the world cup". I am wondering what is the new agenda for Arabian Business, and to what level does the host country affect AB.

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