Bahrain is an independent Islamic kingdom in the Persian Gulf, comprising thirty and odd islands, lying between the coasts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The largest of these islands is Bahrain, meaning two seas and houses 90% of the population. The capital city is Manama. Though a fervent Muslim state, Bahrain preaches and practices a high level of religious accommodation, permitting free pursuit of other religious faiths by its inhabitants. Bahrain’s governance is a hybrid, wherein its Emirs jointly manage day-to-day management with elected representatives.
The country has a high per capita income of over 20,000 US dollars, which is derived from the natural resources such as crude oil to a large extent and non-oil industries such as banking and finance. The country’s seven hundred thousand plus population is growing 3% annually while the GDP is growing at an annual rate of 6%. In a region which is presently facing a wind fall oil boom, Bahrain is growing the fastest.
Aware of the fact that population is rapidly expanding and it is becoming increasingly expensive to hire expatriates, the government has focused on economic diversification into basic commodities such as aluminum, ship repairs and tourism, apart from giving high priority to Bahrain becoming the regional financial and commercial headquarters.
The benign monarchy has given top slot to education, expansion of economy and training the local youth in key areas in order to combat unemployment. The recent Alba expansion project, which the government took up recently, has generated 10,000 jobs while bringing Formula One racing to the nation has added another 6000 jobs.
Most of the jobs for expatriate men extend to mechanical and technical such as oil refining and financial services like banking and insurance. Onshore intellectual jobs such as information technology jobs are yet to make their presence felt, as these jobs are easily executable from foreign offshores.
Job opportunities for women relate to low-paid domestic help opportunities or traditional fields such as primary education, nursing, gynecological and para-gynecological fields like midwifery. Women migrants accounted for more than a quarter of migratory inflows in 2000 compared to a meager 8% in 1980. Though not very often, instances of sexual harassment are not unheard of in the domestic help job market.
Bahrain is comparatively, however a more relaxed state in relation to its neighbors such Saudi Arabia or Iran which are considered rigid when it comes to treatment of expatriate labor. Bahrain is also one of the states that have set up an arbitration service to resolve disputes between employers and workers. The government of Bahrain also stands for the security of the personnel employed in its territory, has focused on eliminating fundamentalism through its reform program. There is no personal income tax and repatriation is permitted fully and freely.
Bahrain is a rare country where there is an active nightlife waiting for the expatriate. The native people in general, love to congregate for fun and frolic. Night spots such as bar, pubs, lounges, discothèques, live rock, bound in hundreds to suit each and every purse.
Overall, the situation is like the cat on the wall. While prospects for the locals are bright, it is diminishing for the expatriate community. Remuneration and perks are shrinking for expatriates owing to higher supplies from third world countries and competition from native and regional players. Still jobs at high end are open in such fields a banking and Insurance, since education and training levels are yet to catch up to international levels. The solace however is the fact that Bahrain, among all the rest in the region is still a congenial domain for the expatriate. For the menial and the lowly paid womanly labor, the scenario is currently hazy, until the government comes out with more transparent and protective statutes for the hapless females.