We love being expats here in Dubai – but it is Bahrain that ranked as the top expat place in the world to live and work, according to a massive ExpatInsider poll just published. The UAE was ranked 26th place globally behind countries as varied as Sweden and Cambodia! What’s going on?!
At least we here in the UAE weren’t alone in not doing too well – the UK plummeted 21 places against the previous year to 54th place, with uncertainty over the Brexit vote influential on the respondents in the country. Oman beat the UAE, coming second to Bahrain among Gulf countries and ranking 17th globally.
InterNations (the expat-focused online platform behind the ExpatInsider poll) quizzed 12,519 respondents from 166 nationalities living in 188 countries. The survey asked how countries rated across a range of issues, with indices created from the following topics: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life and Personal Finance.
Expat verdict on the UAE – safe, but costly!
The UAE made the top 10 for perceived safety and security. It also scored well on the simple question as to how much expatriates can make compared to back in their home country.
But money was also the drawback. Survey respondents cited the price hikes in bills and day-to-day items in the UAE, as well as rocketing costs of sending a child to school.
In other words, good paper earnings get whittled down by the cost of day-to-day living in the UAE (and don’t we just know it).
Expatriates in UAE and Saudi Arabia know that financial pressures will only likely get worse when Value-Added Tax is introduced at the start of 2018 to dozens of consumer items.
David Daly, a partner at Argent Gulf Consulting, suggests that the VAT changes will hit the “destination” of UAE harder compared to the family focus of somewhere like Bahrain – potentially explaining why Bahrain has topped this global poll ahead of the UAE.
In Bahrain, “the big-ticket items of education and residential contracts will be respectively zero-rated and exempt from VAT, whereas the UAE is a more consumptive environment and a destination location, therefore for residents here VAT will be a larger part of their lives,” he told The National.
First impressions obviously count, too. InterNations found that Bahrain topped the Ease-of-Settling-In Index.
Jobs, benefits and expectations – a mixed MENA picture
The varied fortunes of the GCC states in the study – and Bahrain as numero uno – make interesting reading in a context where jobs, work-based benefits, and the perception of the working environment varies so much in the region.
A study this summer by bayt.com found that, despite a 2014 decree for all UAE companies to provide medical insurance to employees as standard, almost half of respondents said this was still not part of their package. Interestingly, Bahrain finished last among GCC countries for this provision.
UAE overall led the region for employee-related benefits but was roughly average among its neighbours as to whether workers got a raise last year and whether they believed they’d get one this year. More than half had seen hikes in rent, bills and food.
So in the UAE, no pay raise plus higher living costs equals less cash to save! But we’ve all got to save …
With summer holidays and related travels now out the way, this survey may well crystallise your thoughts on the rising costs of living in the UAE and how it impacts on your overall financial goals – goals which may have brought you out to the Middle East in the first place. If you do a domestic audit and find your electricity, petrol and rent all on the rise, a budgeting review with your Holborn Assets adviser could be timely. With the UAE financial landscape changing fast, we are full of ideas for our clients to claim safe financial ground for themselves and families.