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Which are the best sectors to work in if you are an expat in the GCC?

Which are the best sectors to work in if you are an expat in the GCC?

The healthcare, oil and gas, and education sectors seem to be those that are offering the most improved benefits

The Gulf continues to attract expats from around the world, typically drawn to the region by the promise of increased earnings and benefits.

Generally, this continues to be the case, irrespective of the sectors in which they may be working.

But what are the personal finance implications and considerations that expats moving here need to bear in mind as part of their working life in a new region?

The healthcare, oil and gas, and education sectors seem to be those that are offering the most improved benefits when compared to equivalent roles in the UK. Certainly the Gulf continues to offer even better opportunities for those with more extensive experience. The best positions for expats financially are generally with government or government entities such as the Sovereign wealth fund, ADIA in Abu Dhabi.

Healthcare, particularly for those in operating in highly specialised fields, can offer particularly lucrative salaries. The average monthly salary for an experienced surgeon is Dhs80,000 per month – double what the equivalent surgeon would make in a year working for the NHS. They typically would also receive housing allowance and potentially school fee allowances if needed.

In many senses, the oil and gas sector remains the backbone of most Gulf economies. Saudi Aramco was the world’s most profitable company last year with profits of $111bn; almost double that of Apple, the second most profitable company. So salaries in this sector can be similarly generous. Typically those working offshore will work both two weeks on and two weeks off in a month or one month on and one month off. So high tax-free salaries and few living expenses combined with long stretches of downtime, can make it a very appealing prospect.

Education is also much more lucrative when compared to the equivalent jobs in the UK. Teachers in the Gulf typically get their accommodation paid for as well as respectable salaries averaging around Dhs15,000 per month. They also get lunch covered and as much as 15 weeks off in a year.

However, there remain some personal financial considerations, of which expats need to be aware.

Many employers in the Gulf do not offer pensions. So expats need to be watchful to ensure that this doesn’t result in a shortfall in their retirement pot.

Expats are advised to use their increased income to ensure that their ultimate pension account is maintained. Some expats maybe in breach of lifetime allowance relief on their pension and will need to check if they are eligible for protection or, if their home is within the European Union, to consider transferring their pension to a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme.

We also advise expats to consider keeping money in an offshore bank account. This could enable them to earn gross interest earlier, while moving money already held on deposit with a bank in their home country could enable them to accumulate tax-free interest earlier. Expats may need to prove that they are no longer resident in their home countries to avoid being taxed there while living and working overseas.

From an insurance standpoint, expats should also remember that many insurance policies might not provide cover for them while living overseas. Typically, an insurance policy taken out in a person’s home country may be void if they become resident in the UAE. They will need to make appropriate alternative insurance arrangements to provide cover in their new region. Some specific expatriate insurance policies are available and we advise people to look into this before relocation to a new jurisdiction.

However, the positives unquestionably outweigh the negatives. Whilst living in the Gulf can be expensive, and rent and groceries can quickly deplete your income, working in a sector that substantially covers these cost delivers a high quality of life while putting expats in a fantastic position to save, so long as they have addressed all other aspects of their personal finance requirements.

Chris Ball is managing partner at Abu Dhabi-based financial advisory firm Hoxton Capital Management

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