UAE expat packages take a turn for the worse

Published:  2 May at 4 PM
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Tagged: UAE
Once a guaranteed pass to the high life in the UAE, generous expat packages are now considered a thing of the past.

For the last 15 years or so, skilled expat professionals have enjoyed generous relocation packages and benefits, allowing a lifestyle almost impossible to achieve in the home country. In 2016, reality has finally kicked in and the ‘free lunch’ is no longer on offer.

The decline began in the recession years following 2008 and has accelerated to the point that even long-term expats admit the good old days are long past and unlikely to ever return. The all-things-paid packages were initially designed to attract and encourage relocation of the brightest and best with hard-to-find talents to a region known as a ‘hardship assignment’.

Those brave and determined enough to get up and go were happy to accept more responsibility, and recruitment agencies were even happier to accept large commissions for their work. Luxurious hi-so homes, international schooling, top-class medical insurance, paid-for trips home, gym and club memberships, bonuses, paid utilities and more were all coupled with generous salaries for those ambitious enough to change their lives.

Following the financial crunch, expat packages began to shrink, with guaranteed bonuses the first to go, although some UAE employers still base variable pay on performance levels. Nowadays, there’s a growing pool of home-grown local talent for employers to draw on, all of which includes knowledge of the market and local experience, making realism as regards financial expectations an essential for expats looking for work in the region.

Advice for present-day potential expat job-seekers includes demonstrating your best skills, being realistic as regards relocation packages and enjoying the challenge of working and playing in a unique environment. When the return home comes, memories of great food, fun times and the beauty of the deserts may act as consolation for a lack of brimming savings accounts.

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