The majority of expats in the UAE believe that their children are safer here than in their home countries, according to the results of HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer 2013 survey. While increased job prospects, higher salaries and confidence in the local economy are some of the reasons expats are drawn to the UAE, respondents have also emphasized the rising cost of living in the country as one of the drawbacks.
Expat Explorer 2013, a survey of over 7,000 respondents across 100 countries and close to 800 people in the UAE, assesses expat attitudes towards their host countries. The study measures these responses across a host of factors including: financial incentives, quality of life, ease of raising children and the cost of living. This year’s survey revealed that 80% of expats in the UAE are satisfied with the state of the local economy, in comparison to the global average of 56%, making the country one of the most attractive for expats in the world.
The survey highlighted that three out of five expats (60%) chose to move to the UAE because of “better job prospects,” compared to the global average of only 36%. The UAE also creates 150,000 new jobs annually according to the Emirates Identity Authority, 30,000 of which go to UAE Nationals, underscoring the growing career opportunities for expats here.
In addition to job opportunities, expats also cited the higher salaries in the UAE, compared to their home countries, as one of the primary factors drawing them to the country. One quarter of respondents chose to move here due to the higher “earning potential.” The survey also showed that 56% of expats in the UAE associate the country with higher salaries, compared to the global average of 27%, across countries included in the survey. Indicative of these sentiments is that salaries are expected to increase by a further 5% in the country next year, according to recent research by Aon Hewitt.
In addition, 70% of expats believe that they earn more here than they do in their home countries, and 73% believe that the financial status on their households has improved upon relocation. This outpaces the global average, where only 53% feel they earn more in their host country and 59% believe the financial status of their household is better.
The UAE also ranked highly as a place to bring up children, scoring the highest amongst GCC countries, in terms of quality of education, childcare services and changes in children’s behavior. Although some challenges faced include the higher cost of education, the country scored much higher on safety as almost three quarters of expats (72%) feel that their children are safer in the UAE than their home countries, compared to a global average of 57%.
Despite these positive sentiments, expats highlighted the high cost of living in the UAE, where people had among the lowest levels of disposable income (ranked 27th out of 37 countries) compared to the other countries surveyed. With rising rents and property prices, inflation is also a concern for expats. Further indicative of the high cost of living is the rise in consumer prices, growing by 1.26% year-on-year in September according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Although the higher cost of living continues to be a concern, expats recognise the UAE primarily for its economic growth (52%), which exceeds the global average of 35%. Confidence in the local economy is backed up by the IMF recently upgrading the UAE’s growth expectations for 2013 to 4%, highlighting that business activity has picked up in key sectors, including, property, trade and tourism.
Francesca McDonagh, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited said: “This year’s survey shows that the UAE is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for expats. With growing opportunities for financial gain, an environment supportive of career aspirations and a safe place for raising children, the country offers expats a complete package for their lifestyles. As the UAE continues to grow and the quality of living improves, we will see it becoming an increasingly popular expat destination.”
Satisfaction in GCC economies ranks highest globally according to expats
The Expat Explorer survey also revealed that expats in the GCC are among the most confident in the state of their local economies, compared to individuals in other regions around the world. Four countries in the GCC, including, Oman (1st), Qatar (6th), UAE (9th) and Saudi Arabia (10th), were among the top ten economies where expats are the most satisfied. Indicative of the strong growth potential of the region is that economies in the GCC are expected to grow at 4.4% over this year according to the IMF.
The GCC also appears to have a more stable political climate in comparison to global sentiments. Oman (58%) and the UAE (52%) are among the most politically stable in the region, more than the global average of 35%. A greater percentage of expats in most of the GCC countries also feel that they have higher personal security than the global average (40%), with Qatar (69%) and the UAE (63%) showing the highest sentiments in this regard.
These are a few of the factors that distinguish the Middle East as one of the regions that has drawn the highest percentage of expats, growing from 13% to close to 25% between 2000 and 2010. This trend looks set to continue as expats in Qatar (63%), Oman (63%) and UAE (59%) believe their “host countries are getting better,” compared to the global average of 32%.
Asia continues to be the most attractive destination for expats globally
Whilst we see positive sentiments of expats towards GCC countries, Asian markets appear to be the most attractive for young career-minded expats, as well as international organisations. Expats particularly distinguish the region for its potential for financial gain and quality of life. The survey showed that Asian expats are among the best paid in the world with Indonesia (1), China (3) and Malaysia (5) among the top five countries where expats earn the highest income.
The high quality of life in Asia has also been identified by expats as one of the region’s defining factors with Thailand leading the list of countries for best expat experience. Four other Asian countries – China (3), Singapore (6), India (7), Taiwan (8) – were in the list of destinations where expats enjoy the best quality of life. Related to this, was that first six countries that are the most cost effective to live in, according to expats, are in Asia. Thailand (1), Indonesia (2), Taiwan (3), India (4), Vietnam (5) and China (6) topped the list of countries where expats have the highest disposable income.
Dean Blackburn, Head of HSBC Expat, HSBC, said: “Asia continues to be one of the most popular destinations for expats due to the high quality of life and low cost of living. With growing financial and career opportunities, we are seeing the region draw the younger generation of migrants. While Asia continues to be popular choice, this year’s survey has revealed that expats in the Middle East are most satisfied in the state of their host countries’ economies. This is particularly evident as the GCC has managed to remain averse to the volatility we have seen in markets around the world over the past year.”