Rivermate | Bahrain flag


Comprehensive Country Overview

Explore the geography, history, and socio-economic factors shaping Bahrain

Country description

Bahrain is a small island nation in the Persian Gulf, comprising Bahrain Island and over 30 smaller islands. Its strategic location has historically shaped its role as a trading hub. The main island is mostly flat and arid, with the highest point being the Jabal ad Dukhan (440 ft.). Since 1986, Bahrain has been linked to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway, facilitating trade and travel in the region. Saudi Arabia lies to the west, with the Qatar peninsula to the east.

Historical Significance

Bahrain is believed to be the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization, a crucial trading center linking Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. The country witnessed Portuguese rule in the 16th century, followed by Persian control. Since the 18th century, Bahrain has been governed by the Al Khalifa dynasty, a native Arab family that continues to rule today. During the 19th century, Bahrain became a British protectorate, ensuring its strategic significance while allowing the Al Khalifa dynasty to remain in power. Bahrain gained independence in 1971, coinciding with the discovery of oil which would shape its modern economy.

Socio-Economic Landscape

While oil once dominated Bahrain's economy, it has since diversified. Bahrain was the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf. The country is a regional financial and banking center and boasts a growing services sector, particularly in communications and technology. Bahrain has actively promoted itself as a tourism destination, highlighting its historical landmarks, cultural attractions, and relaxed lifestyle compared to its neighbors. The population of Bahrain is diverse. While most are Arab, Bahrain hosts significant communities of people from India, Pakistan, and other parts of Asia. Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. The king holds considerable power, while the government includes a bicameral legislature. Islam is the official religion of Bahrain and plays a central role in shaping its laws and social customs. Bahrain has a substantial Shia Muslim population alongside a Sunni Muslim majority.

Noteworthy Points

Bahrain's size and strategic location offer both advantages and challenges in its regional positioning. Its history demonstrates a legacy of adaptability, reflecting its ability to navigate regional powers and maintain its sovereignty. Bahrain's pursuit of economic diversification and its position as a regional finance center are keys to its future development.

Workforce description

Bahrain's population is relatively young, with a median age of around 32 years. The workforce is expanding as more Bahrainis enter the labor market. However, there is a significant gender gap in the workforce, with male workers outnumbering females, although women's participation has increased in recent years. Bahrain also hosts a sizable expatriate workforce, which brings a range of skills and experiences.

Bahrain boasts a high literacy rate, and investment in education has produced a skilled workforce. Many Bahrainis hold university degrees. The country promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields with the aim of creating a knowledge-based economy. Bahrain also emphasizes technical and vocational training to provide the skills needed in the modern job market. However, the rapid pace of technological change creates a requirement for continuous skill development and adaptation within Bahrain's workforce.

The service sector dominates Bahrain's economy and is the primary employer. This includes sectors like finance, trade, tourism, and hospitality. Bahrain has established a reputation as a significant financial center in the Middle East, attracting many related professionals. The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is growing in importance, driving demand for workers with digital skills. Bahrain also has a manufacturing base that includes industries such as aluminum production, petrochemicals, and construction materials. While a vital part of Bahrain's economy, the oil and gas industry employs a relatively smaller portion of the workforce compared to other sectors.

Cultural norms impacting employment

In Bahrain, family obligations and commitments are deeply valued, and it's common for employees to request time off for family events. Employers generally understand and accommodate these needs. While traditional 9-to-5 schedules are standard, some businesses may offer flexibility, such as remote work or adjusted hours, to support employees in balancing family and work responsibilities. Bahraini culture often allows for longer lunch breaks to accommodate midday prayers and time for meals with family.

Communication Styles

Bahrainis emphasize personal connections. Expect a period of getting to know one another before diving into business discussions. Small talk and inquiries about family and well-being are customary. To preserve harmony, Bahrainis may avoid direct 'no's and offer indirect answers. Pay attention to nonverbal cues and phrasing to understand the true intent. Courtesy and respect towards others, especially those in senior positions, are paramount. Use formal titles and avoid interrupting when someone else is speaking.

Organizational Hierarchies

Bahraini workplaces tend to have hierarchical structures where seniority is highly regarded. Decisions generally flow from top management downwards. Older individuals and those with more experience command a higher level of respect. Their opinions are often given greater weight in decision-making processes. The use of professional titles (e.g., Doctor, Engineer) is very important and demonstrates respect for an individual's position and qualifications.

Additional Considerations

Bahrain is making strides, but traditional gender roles may still influence some workplaces. Be aware of potential differences in dynamics between men and women. The Islamic faith plays a central role in Bahrain. Work schedules often accommodate prayer times, and the holy month of Ramadan may impact working hours and productivity.

Key industries and employment sectors

Bahrain's economy is shaped by several key industries. The oil and gas industry remains fundamental, accounting for a significant portion of the country's GDP. The financial services sector, with a particular emphasis on Islamic banking, is another major contributor. Aluminum production is also significant, with Bahrain hosting one of the world's largest aluminum smelters. Various manufacturing sectors, including chemicals, plastics, and construction materials, are strong. Additionally, Bahrain heavily focuses on tourism, drawing visitors through cultural heritage and Formula 1 events.

Significant Employment Sectors

Bahrain's financial sector is a large employer, particularly in banking, investment, and insurance. The government is a major employer across various sectors like education, healthcare, and administration. The growing tourism industry is fueling employment in the areas of retail, hospitality, and related services. Ongoing infrastructure development also creates jobs in the construction sector.

Emerging Sectors with Growth Potential

Bahrain aims to be a regional logistics and transportation hub, supported by its strategic location and investments in port infrastructure. The country is also investing in its digital infrastructure, making the information and communication technology sector a promising area for jobs and economic development. Furthermore, Bahrain is seeking to diversify its energy mix and has a growing focus on solar and other renewable energy sources.

Rivermate | A 3d rendering of earth

Hire your employees globally with confidence

We're here to help you on your global hiring journey.