The economic and political stability in the UAE continues to attract career-orientated expats to the country in comparison to other markets globally, according to HSBC’s Expat Explorer 2016 survey. Despite complex macroeconomic conditions and rising prices, people recognise the UAE for the financial benefits it provides, along with the safety and high quality of life for families. Given these sentiments, the country was ranked 12th out of 45 markets around the world by expats as a destination to live and work, while Singapore, New Zealand and Canada were chosen as the top three markets globally.
In its ninth edition, HSBC Expat Explorer: Achieving ambitions abroad examined the responses of nearly 27,000 expats from across the world, and 3,092 in the UAE, to assess their views towards life in their host countries.  The UAE was highlighted by expats as a safe haven, with nearly 8 in 10 (78%) selecting it for being more politically stable than their home countries. This sentiment far exceeds the global average of 51%, revealing the degree of uncertainty expats in some other markets have towards their host countries.
Drawing career-driven expats
According to the research, nearly 6 in 10 (57%) are confident about the local economy, however, this represents a 4% drop in the number of UAE-based expats that expressed the same attitude in 2015. Nonetheless, sentiments here are the highest in the Middle East, and are above the global average of 52%, which can be attributed to the challenging macroeconomic environment across the world today.
Additionally, the UAE also continues to be recognised for starting a business (53%) and advancing a career (54%), sentiments that rose from last year and exceed the global average of 43% and 38%, respectively. Tied in with this trend, the UAE is also among the top three destinations for people looking to find a purpose in their careers (20%). Meanwhile, two-thirds (66%) of expats state they earn more in comparison to their home countries, and this is evidenced by respondents in the UAE reporting an average salary that is about 14% higher than the global average.
Commenting on these findings, Kunal Malani, Head of Customer Value Management, MENA, Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC Middle East, said: “It’s no surprise that the UAE continues to be ranked highly for the financial opportunities it provides expats from around the world, as this has been a consistent trend in the past few years of the survey. Whether it’s the higher earning potential and tax-free income, or the world-class infrastructure available for entrepreneurs, the country has steadily been growing as a beacon for career-driven expatriates.”
Offering the best financial rewards globally
Nearly all (93%) expats in the UAE say that they receive benefits, such as airfare allowance, as part of their employment contracts, far exceeding the global average of 33%. This year’s research also singled out Dubai among four cities globally – along with Hong Kong, Zurich and Shanghai – for the financial benefits it offers residents working here. Nearly 8 in 10 (77%) receive healthcare benefits in the Emirate – the highest proportion in the world – compared to the global average of 51%, and this can be attributed to the government’s efforts towards making it mandatory for employers to provide health insurance.
Partly as a result of these benefits, almost two-thirds of residents in the UAE (63%) say that their disposable income has risen since moving from their home countries, ahead of the global average of 56%, while a similar proportion (62%) say that they are able to save more here. Related to this, the UAE, along with other countries in the ME, rate highly in terms of putting home ownership within reach for expats with over half (53%) saying that living abroad has sped up their plans to buy property.
Quality of life versus rising costs
Another important factor attracting expats to the UAE, over 6 in 10 (61%) believe that their quality of life has improved since moving, compared to the global average of 52%. However, costs are a rising concern, particularly in terms of children’s education. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) say that it is more expensive to raise a child here than in their home country, while 91% say that education costs have risen. At the same time, expats recognise the benefits, with 66% saying their children’s quality of life is better here, along with 74% saying they feel safer in the UAE than their home countries, compared to 52% globally.
Malani added: “Despite cyclical macroeconomic issues and rising expenses, the fundamentals of the UAE remain strong. We also see that a majority of expats realise that the government has continually worked to enhance the living conditions of those who choose to make this country their home. Nonetheless, we know that moving abroad can be a daunting experience, and as the research showed, the UAE was ranked 22nd globally in terms of setting up a life here. We have recognised this and have invested in helping make this process as smooth as possible for our globally-minded customer base; in order to allow them to simply pick up where they left off once they move.
“HSBC’s New To Country proposition was designed with this goal in mind, and it provides incoming expats a full suite of vital services for the first time in the UAE – whether it is a pre-paid mobile to call home upon landing or a complimentary ride from the airport. Expats can also conveniently move their investment assets to the country they have relocated to and transfer their funds through our Global View Global Transfer feature. We know that a large number of people move to the UAE to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones, and we are committed to supporting these aspirations.”