Highly qualified nannies with the right experience are more in demand than ever in the UAE.
Some command salaries of up to Dh30,000 ($8,000) a month, plus accommodation, food and frequent trips abroad.
If the job adverts posted by recruiting agencies and families are anything to go by, nannies educated in wealthy countries are much sought after and well rewarded in the UAE.
The monthly salary for an experienced and qualified nanny with English as a first language is between Dh25,000 and Dh30,000. That is higher than the average salary of a mid-level business executive.
With the salary comes free accommodation in desirable neighbourhoods, food, holidays around the world and medical benefits, meaning there is a lot of interest in these positions.
Lucrative career with fun lifestyle
Working as a nanny or a governess offers a lucrative career for many women willing to move to the UAE, as well as those already here.
“There is money, there is fun and there is lifestyle,” Joe, 32, a qualified teacher from Australia, who recently swapped her teaching job to work for a Canadian family in Dubai, told The National.
“I used to work 10 hours a day as a teacher in a Dubai school. I had to prep lessons every night, correct answer sheets and do a lot of other admin tasks, too. And I was earning a little more than Dh15,000.
“As a nanny, I earn Dh20,000 and work only five to six hours a day. It is totally stress free and more fulfilling. I am not spending a penny on food or accommodation, and get plenty of free time. This is the best career move I have made.”
Joe could not disclose her surname under a confidentiality agreement with her employer.
Susan, a British nanny for an Emirati family in Dubai, came to the UAE three years ago to enjoy the emirates' high-life and famous beaches.
She told The National that the advert she saw online asking for a nanny changed her life.
“I have friends who work as nannies in the UAE, and have heard amazing stories. When I saw an ad that a local family is looking for a qualified teacher to work as nanny for their two children, I decided to give it a try,” said Susan, who has a degree in psychology and childcare, and has worked as a kindergarten teacher in the UK.
Three years into the job, and Susan says she is in a “happy place”.
“I have already travelled to five countries for holidays. The working hours are a bit long, sometimes. But I earn Dh25,000 a month plus perks. The family is very friendly and it feels like home. The kids are also very attached to me.”
High demand for nannies educated in the West
With more affluent families moving to the UAE, there is a high demand for western-educated nannies. And many families are willing to pay as much as Dh30,000 for a highly qualified caretaker for their children.
For instance, Sarah, a banker based in Abu Dhabi, is on the lookout for a British nanny.
“My standard of expectation is really, really high. And I am willing to pay Dh 30,000 — if that is what it takes to get a superior caretaker who I can trust,” she told The National.
Between her busy corporate life and long work trips, Sarah said she is struggling to give the best quality childcare to her two-year-old twins.
“I am not looking for the lower end of domestic care like washing, cooking and cleaning. I have other people to do that. What I am paying is for the English accent, passport and etiquette.
“I want a nanny who can engage with my kids in proper spoken English. They should have a passport that allows them mobility to travel with me and the kids. They should come with good experience and references that I can fall back upon.”
After an unsuccessful search for nannies in the UAE, Sarah said she is looking to hire a nanny from the UK.
“Having a British nanny will help my kids to be on par with other children if they have to go back to the UK at any point. That is the drive.
“One thing I learnt in the process is that you can throw as much money as you want, but there is no guarantee that you will get a good [nanny]. Recently, I found a super-duper one for 30K a month. But one of my twins did not bond with her. So, I am back to the drawing board.”
UAE a sought-after destination
The growth of the UAE as a global business hub and sought-after family destination has resulted in peak demand for highly-qualified nannies, say recruiters specialising in placing nannies and governesses with families.
“UAE and Dubai in particular — but also Abu Dhabi especially in recent years — have been popular with western nannies as the country offers professional career nannies a combination of a western lifestyle and a tax-free salary,” Jana Morgan, co-founder and director of UK-based London Nanny Consultancy, told The National.
She is an expert in recruiting nannies for families in the Middle East.
“The UAE has always been a welcoming destination with considerable expat communities, and a lot of nannies from the UK/Europe have friends and family living in the UAE now, which makes it even more attractive. The lovely weather also adds to the attraction.”
Ms Morgan also said British nannies are particularly interested in taking up jobs in the UAE as “it tends to pay more than nursery and school positions”.
“The feedback we get from nannies is that many of them simply prefer the home environment and the one-on-one care it enables them to provide to their subjects, as well as becoming part of the children’s and family’s life in a way that a teacher simply doesn’t.”
According to Ms Morgan, an average salary for a qualified and experienced nanny with English as her first language is around £1,000 (Dh4,300) a week.
“This is to work six days a week, up to 12 hours a day with accommodation and all living expenses covered, as well as travel expenses, visa and medical insurance.”
While junior nannies are paid less, there are also nannies who earn £1,300 to £1,500 a week, she said.
Although the demand for nannies always existed in the oil-rich Gulf countries, Ms Morgan says the market has expanded in the last 15 years.
“When we started off, it was only VVIP and royal families who would go through the process of employing and bringing in nannies from the UK, Europe or Australia, etc, which of course, involves providing not only accommodation and adequate salary to the nanny but also flights, travel and medical insurance, visa and work permit.
“Nowadays, we also have clients who are international expat families and businesses.”
While some families still prefer to fly in professional nannies from the UK or other European countries, there is an increasing trend for hiring UAE-based candidates.
Angelica Robinson, chief executive of a Dubai-based consultancy, CloudNine Kids International, told The National that it was different a few years ago.
“There was limited availability. Now, we are lucky to have a large pool of candidates in the UAE itself. It is easy for families to meet the candidate in person and also have a trial period of two weeks or so.”
Dozens of candidates per position
Ms Robinson said she received 60 to 70 applications for an advert she placed in an online forum for a native English-speaking nanny for a British family to take care of their three and four-year old girls.
The advert specified a gentle personality, empathetic and passionate care with toddlers and young children, experience with nutrition and healthy meal planning, as well as being comfortable around pets.
The Dh15,000-a-month job allowed the candidate to live in a fully furnished 2,000 sq ft flat on The Palm Jumeirah and gave opportunities to travel with the family to Europe in July and August, plus a ski holiday in February and smaller trips throughout the year.
Although the Dh15,000 salary is not in the higher range, “it is an attractive offer, especially for the spacious Palm Jumeirah apartment to stay”, said Ms Robinson.
“I have got applications from the UAE, UK, US and some from even South Africa and New Zealand.”
She said she has shortlisted seven candidates, who all have different backgrounds.
“Some of them have worked privately with families as nannies or governesses previously. And some of them have worked in schools or nurseries.”
Most recruiting agencies charge anything between 15 and 20 per cent of the candidate’s annual salary as their service charge. A strict vetting process is followed before they shortlist and place the candidate.
“I usually invite them for a phone call or a Zoom interview initially,” Ms Robinson said.
“We go through a range of different questions to understand their strengths, areas of interest and previous experiences. It is also important to understand whether they have long-term plans to stay with the family.”
Once a few candidates have been selected, their CVs are forwarded on to the family and face-to-face interviews are arranged. Once one is selected, a week-long trial starts.
According to Ms Robinson, the new relaxed visa rules allow families to hire western nannies and governesses.
“Until a few years ago, it was difficult for families to have a British or European nanny because domestic helper visas were issued only for certain nationalities.
“Families used to bring them on their company visas as personal assistants or secretaries. But now, they can hire any nationality,” Ms Robinson said.