Expats in UAE face stay or go decision

Published:  12 Aug at 6 PM
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Soaring living costs, the nationalisation of the local workforce and the dramatic and sustained fall in oil prices are forcing expats to rethink their career plans.

For decades, the UAE’s comparative stability and liberal attitude has lured millions of expats hoping to make their fortunes as well as enjoying a luxurious lifestyle. Expats working in the UAE range from upper echelon professionals to construction workers and taxi drivers, all of whom earn higher wages than would be possible in their home countries.
Many Western expats use the UAE as a residential base for commuting between home and work in the far more conservative states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Out of a total population of 9.2 million, expat workers make up 7.8 million, but since the price of oil crashed many are having to decide between staying and going. The soaring cost of living and increasing job insecurity are resulting in many giving up their dreams and relocating. Many expats are having the decision made for them by their employers as CEOs can no longer justify the salaries demanded by Western expat professionals. In addition, many companies are simply downsizing or recruiting from other, less expensive markets as the regional downturn continues to take its toll.

Hardest hit across the region are the construction and oil and gas sectors, with Abu Dhabi’s state-owned ADNOC cutting 10 per cent of its staff and Qatar Petroleum restructuring with the loss of 1,000 foreign workers. Saudi’s mega construction companies are laying off thousands, and Oman’s construction industry is also failing, with massive job losses as a result. Contracts are being terminated all across the emirates, with global service providers badly affected as a result.

Expat engineers, consultants, bankers and lawyers are hardest hit and living costs in the region are rising fast, causing personal dept to increase. International moves are now the fastest-growing sector of one professional relocation company, with enquiries during the past six months growing by 70 per cent.

Even the region’s international schools are cutting back in response to falling demand for places, and new plans to open more private schools are being put on hold. Recruitment of new teachers is down by 60 per cent, with more cuts planned for 2017. The UAE’s attempts to nationalise the workforce is damaging the expat job market still further, in addition to causing job insecurity for expats who are still employed.
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