Basically, if you want a paid child-helper in Dubai, there’s the cheap way and there’s the considerably more expensive way. Don’t doubt that it’s a case of “you get what you pay for.”
Additionally, either of the above choices puts you in the position of being the nanny’s sponsor, so you’re responsible (in every way) for that employee while she resides in the UAE under your roof.
There are legal requirements and guarantees with the UAE Government that must be in place before you can become a nanny sponsor.
I’ve written all of the above on the assumption that you are looking for a full-time childcare helper. If I’m wrong, and you are just looking for occasional help with the children, then go no further.
Read this, then do further research for yourself, using the keywords “babysitter” and “Dubai.”
The Cheaper Option: What You’ll Get
To put it bluntly, you’ll get a housemaid from the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines, or Indonesia. You will not be getting a trained child educator with legitimate qualifications from recognized institutions.
Now, this doesn’t mean that your housemaid/nanny will be completely incompetent or incapable of understanding your wishes or following instructions.
You may have to exercise considerable patience and understanding though, as it’s likely that your family will probably be the first western-educated and acculturated family that the maid has ever had close contact with.
You will need to make your expectations about duties, behaviors, and boundaries very clear (in the kindest possible way), and be prepared to supervise and repeat the above many times in the early days to ensure that you’re getting what you’ve asked for.
The old rule for second language learners can’t be emphasized too much: demonstrate what you want, don’t tell.
Basically, when you employ a maid or housekeeper, and then expect her to do childcare as well, you are asking her to do something she has not been specifically trained for, but many people do, myself included, and over time it works out, usually.
However, she will have culturally different attitudes to childcare and will need support and time to make the adjustment. She is likely to feel anxious to please and uncertain how to do this. When she is in doubt, she will fall back on traditional ways of behaving, which may not be what you want. It will be difficult for all of you at first.
What Will it Cost?
Minimum monthly salaries for full-time domestic helpers in Dubai are actually set by the embassies of their home countries. If your conscience prickles at the variation between what your maid earns and what you or your spouse bring home each month, you’re of course welcome to revise the salary upwards.
Filipinas command the highest monthly wages, while Bangladeshis, Indonesians, and Sri Lankans get the lowest. This probably has a lot to do with their homeland economies, the degree of education, and English language skills they arrive with.
This link has a very good summary of the likely costs: monthly salary, cost to household budget of an extra person in the family group, annual levy to the UAE government, medical checks, documentation (including Emirates ID), and from 2016 onwards, compulsory medical insurance.
Now, some of these are weekly costs, the salary is a monthly cost, but all the rest are annual, two, or three yearly. You do have to pay some of them up front, but they can be amortized to a total monthly outgoing.
This will allow you to properly assess the benefit to the household, balanced against the true monthly cost.
So how do I go about employing a full-time maid?
There’s no shortage of domestic-help agencies in Dubai. Again, a simple web search will give you plenty of choices, but are some better than others? For sure, but how do we know which ones are best?
This particular section of the expatwoman site on nannies, maids, and domestic help has some very good generic advice, but stays clear of actual recommendations. For that, you need to search the discussion forum, where you will find plenty of posts such as these.
You can, of course, go down the self-sponsorship road, but you’ll need to be very careful with all the individual steps, particularly if you’re new to Dubai yourself.
Yes, you save quite a bit in agency fees, but there’s a lot of paperwork and permissions from government agencies that you have to do yourself. It’s well worth the trouble and effort if you happen to know the nanny personally – perhaps as an employee of friends or as someone who comes highly recommended by colleagues.
If so, then read this link I posted above in the “costs” section, paying particular notice to the “full-time maid – already in the UAE, with a different family.”
It is always possible to find someone who knows the routine and will do all this paper work for you for a fee. The same person can probably also reregister your car each year and carry out other tedious tasks. Ask someone at work to recommend a suitable person.
The Considerably More Expensive Option: A Real Nanny
You can get the real deal, but I doubt any of the Dubai-based maid/nanny agencies could supply them. By real deal, I’m talking about a trained professional with real qualifications from a recognized and accredited institution, from a country that is well regarded for the quality of its universities and post high school colleges.
So, what skills would such a nanny come armed with? Here’s an example of the course content for a one-year course in Nanny Studies from a New Zealand Polytechnic (you’ll need to expand the Course Content section yourself to see the specifics).
A New Zealand trained and qualified nanny could expect to earn around AED 8000 per month (assuming around 160 hours of work in a 4 week cycle) in her first year on the job.
Add to this the cost of a return ticket from New Zealand, settling in costs, as well as all those other Government fees and levies, and you can see what I said at the beginning about getting what you pay for – or maybe more aptly, paying for what you get.
I chose New Zealand to illustrate the costs of this particular nanny option because I have some personal familiarity, but I suspect that the overall costs would not be substantially less for a similarly qualified early childhood professional from the UK, the USA, Canada, or any European country.
Having young adults come to the UAE in a kind of an au pair type capacity isn’t really an option either. Depending on where the visitor comes from, visas last 30 days, or up to 90 days for any European member of the Schengen Zone.
But they’re in the UAE as a tourist. They’re not allowed to work, and if you get caught doing so, there are substantial fines for anyone employing another person without a work permit and a proper residence visa. Best not consider that as a viable option.
What’s really the best option for most people?
I strongly suspect it’s employing a maid who is already in the UAE, preferably one with a good track record with other employers. As some of the sites with advice to offer say, if you’re prepared to wait, the right person will come along: someone you trust, empathize with, and most important of all, someone the children like – and who likes them in return.