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Jobs and Free Trade Zones in Dubai

Expats working in Dubai make up roughly 80% of the emirate’s population. Want to join their ranks? Then make sure to get a good idea of what Dubai’s business world is like! Our InterNations article on working in Dubai can help you with info on the economy, job search, and a lot more.
Dubai is an attractive business location for global companies.

Public Sector Jobs

Despite its Emiratisation measures as well as investments in jobs for local citizens, Dubai’s government prides itself on welcoming expats from all over the world. Those with the right qualifications can find work in the private, semi-private or government sectors, enjoy tax-free salaries and often successful careers.

The government indeed offers job positions for skilled expats. Their online job portal lists all vacancies for work in the government sector. Expats can even apply online. However, even though this may seem like an attractive alternative to working in the private sector (provided you have very good Arabic skills), government jobs can also be subject to Emiratisation.

Know Your Rights 

To regulate labor relations between employer and employee, Dubai follows the UAE federal law no. 8 of 1980. Every now and then, the regulations of this law are expanded with cabinet decisions and ministerial announcements.

In 2006, for instance, Dubai saw the implementation of a landmark HR measure, regulating code of conduct, work environment, recruitment and employment policies as well as compensation and benefits. Another ordinance, which was issued in 2011 by the Ministry of Labor, limits the establishment of private employment agencies to UAE citizens. Only if every partner and signatory is an Emirati is the agency eligible to receive all the necessary licenses. Then at the beginning of 2016, new laws were introduced to ensure all contracts followed the same guidelines and principles.

Hence it is essential for foreign businesses and expats alike to keep themselves informed. New ordinances and regulations may very well affect them and their life in Dubai.

Dubai's Free Trade Zones: Expat Heaven

The free trading zones in Dubai function as neutral areas, where foreigners may work, trade or establish their business under more relaxed laws than those which apply in the rest of the UAE. These free zones are, of course, one of the main reasons why many foreign companies view Dubai as the right place to invest and open their branch office.

Each of the free zones in Dubai is run by an independent free zone authority (FZA), which issues operating licenses and assists companies with establishing their business. Foreign investors can register their company as a Free Zone Establishment (FZE) or open a branch or representative office instead. FZEs are run as limited liability companies and are subject to the rules and regulations of their respective free zone.

For foreign companies, there are many advantages to setting up their business in these free trade zones:

  • 100% foreign ownership
  • 100% import and export tax exemptions
  • no corporate taxes for 15 years
  • no personal income taxes
  • assistance with recruitment, sponsorship, and housing

Local Free Zones

There are free trade zones all over the UAE, most of them in Dubai. The Jebel Ali is the most famous and, having been established in 1980, also the oldest free trade zone. With its international port (the biggest man-made one in the world) and its giant international airport Al Maktoum, the Jebel Ali free zone is one of Dubai’s economic assets.

Other free trade zones and business parks include:

  • Dubai Airport Free Zone
  • Dubai Biotechnology & Research Park        
  • Dubai Gold and Diamond Park        
  • Dubai Healthcare City       
  • Dubai International Financial Centre        
  • Dubai Internet City       
  • Dubai Knowledge Village        
  • Dubai World Central
  • Dubai Maritime City       
  • Dubai Media City  
  • Dubai Outsource Zone        
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis        
  • Dubai Studio City   
  • International Media Production Zone


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Peter B. Krehmer

"There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together. "

Suzanne Payne

"Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats. "

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