Salaries in Bahrain are usually similar to or greater than those paid in western countries. Bahrain still has a large population of expatriate workers (according to a 2004 estimate, 44% of the population in the 15 to 64 age group is non-national). This is despite strenuous efforts by the Government to increase the level of Bahrainis employed.
The expatriate workforce is spread throughout the whole economy. The financial sector is now predominantly Bahraini but there is still a large number of expatriates working in this field, helped by the fact that Bahrain has well over one hundred financial institutions. The large family companies also rely heavily on expatriate workers although they are working hard to increase the number of Bahrainis employed. The major industrial companies are predominantly Bahraini staffed, except for some of the senior specialist roles.
Because the region has no personal taxation, net income is usually much greater, which is one of the major attractions of working in Bahrain. In the past, remuneration packages were split into various elements: basic salary, car provision or allowance, housing provision or allowance, medical cover, education for children and air tickets for home visits. Today, however, employers tend just to pay a salary, which covers all these expenses, although in some cases there are performance or other bonuses. Most senior expatriates will be given housing and car allowances. Having said that, the benefits expatriates receive as part of their remuneration are really up to the individual to negotiate.
In addition to their salary, contract workers are awarded an ‘indemnity’ at the end of the contract period. The indemnity is usually based on basic salary excluding any bonuses. The indemnity can be a significant amount of money if you’ve been working in Bahrain for a long time, and many people manage either to accumulate a reasonable financial cushion or to live the high life. If you’re clever and disciplined, you should be able to do some of both. The indemnity has nothing to do with insurance but is an end-of-contract bonus which is required by law to be paid to expatriate workers as a sort of ‘thank-you’ for being of service to the state – it’s also known as ‘end of service benefits’. Indemnity scales usually amount to 15 (in some cases 20) days of basic pay per year of employment for the first three years and thereafter a month’s salary per year of employment.
Note that some Arab companies regularly delay the payment of salaries, cash flow problems being passed on to their staff. In this event, you have little alternative but to wait.
The working week in Bahrain tends to vary between 40 and 48 hours, depending on the particular company’s policy. Office hours are usually from 8:30 or 9 am to 5:30 or 6 pm. There are no differences in time keeping between summer and winter. In the month of Ramadan, the working day is reduced to six hours and legally this should apply to all staff, but many companies only apply it to Muslims, who fast during daylight hours.
Friday is the Muslim rest day and, if your company has a five-day working week, the other day off will probably be either Thursday or Saturday. Saturday is the more popular choice for international companies, as taking Thursday off would mean a reduction in the number of operational days in common with much of the rest of the world. Conversely, other companies insist on Thursday, as the school ‘weekend’ is Thursday and Friday.