Top expat professionals deserting Abu Dhabi as economy falters and costs rise

Published:  9 Feb at 6 PM
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Tagged: Canada, UAE, Jobs, Euro
Once the holy grail for top expat professionals, Abu Dhabi’s stuttering economy is now the cause of an exodus of the brightest and best.

Top-paying jobs in the emirate were the most sought-after employment prizes for top bankers and other expat professionals during the oil boom at the turn of the 21st century, Nowadays it’s a totally different story, caused by the dramatic drop in oil prices and its effects on industry and development.

Abu Dhabi is still the region’s top producer of the ‘black gold’ and is also the wealthiest of its emirates, epitomising the legendary riches associated with oil. However, since the oil price slump, the government has resorted to radical actions including austerity measures and the implementation of formerly taboo, politically sensitive policies. Largesses offered to emiratis are now not being implemented and the cost of living is soaring.

Economic uncertainty represented by trimmed packages, elevated electricity charges, holds being put on luxury, multi-million dollar developments and spending cuts have resulted in an increasing number of redundancies, with state oil company Adnoc slashing some 5,000 jobs. The writing on the wall is being seen and well understood by top-earning expat professional in the banking and other sectors, spurring a rush to leave before it’s too late.

According to one head-hunter dealing with senior positions, last year was the worst he can remember over the past three decades. Expats working at both ends of the employment sector are being let go, he said, adding this leaves the middle sector squeezed in the same manner as in the 1980s and ‘90s. Cheaper staff, he added, are being recruited to replace the numbers of top-salaried European general managers who’ve deserted what they see as a sinking ship.

The finance sector and construction industry are worst hit, according to a report by the Middle Eastern Economic Digest, with flagship developments including tenders for several museums being put on hold for the foreseeable future. The projected Louvre and Guggenheim museums were seen as an important tourism tool for Abu Dhabi’s plan to become a cultural hub for the entire region.

According to local economists working with major banks, economic activity is experiencing a marked slowdown, with government spending shrinking year by year. Popular expat compounds are feeling the effects, with empty houses demonstrating the numbers either leaving or sending their families back home. It seems that expat professionals will now have to search the world for another location as promising as Abu Dhabi once was.

Source: Financial Times
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