A very misleading and poorly researched article on working in Dubai

I was very disappointed to come across this article when reading www.propertymash.com this morning. Published by The Australian newspaper, it really is the epitome of poor reporting – limited research and trying as hard as possible to create some spin for interest sake alone.

You can read the article yourself here – http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25547622-25658,00.html?from=public_rss

Lets get a few facts straight about employment conditions and laws in the UAE. First of all if you are not a UAE national, you will need to get a VISA issued by your employer. If you cease to work for that employer, that company needs to release you and yes, they can place a ban on you working for other employers (by not releasing your VISA). This can however be challenged in local courts, and I have seen this done successfully. 

Is it harder to change jobs in Dubai? Undoubtedly. By virtue that employers control the issuing of VISA’s for you, this does give them a significant negotiating tool when things turn sour. Yes, employers can use this to manipulate employee’s. I have heard of many examples where the threat of not releasing an employee’s work visa is used as a negotiating tool to get an employee to stay, or take a revised package or even to leave and not take severance pay or, in the case of the property industry, not be paid commission that is owing to them.

However this is the exception and not the norm. Many companies are struggling in Dubai at present, just like in the rest of the world, so the temptation will be strong to use whatever means possible to reduce costs (paying severance pay and outstanding commissions).  This isn’t of course a valid excuse for not paying amounts due, however when dealing in emerging markets anywhere in the world, you need to be far more mindful of the balance of power in all forms of negotiation. The relatively equal balance of power between employers and employees  that Australian’s are used to is not the norm in most developing economies. So when taking a job in Dubai or any other emerging market enter it with your eyes open – and don’t be naive about what can happen if your relationship or the company’s prospects go south.

One more thing – the comment in the article on “These people also face financial hardships such as locked-in rental payments and relocation costs.”

A couple of things on this. I have not heard of a single management level executive working for one of the large developers (the examples cited in the article) who isn’t provided a very significant rental allowance or an apartment or villa rent free. It is almost always a standard part of a senior executives package. Similarly in my experience relocation costs are generally paid for by the employers for these senior executives.

What the article doesn’t tell you is that everyday people skip town, reneging on all of their financial obligations, whether they be car finance payments, mortgages, leases and of course, employment obligations. In this case the immaturity of the financial and legal system enables the employee to walk away from all of their obligations, with significant impacts of property owners, banks, employers and so on.

Like most things, there are two sides to every story.

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