UAE ranks as the 18th best expat destination to live and work

Bahrain and Oman also figure in the top 25 locations to reside abroad, new survey finds

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - APRIL 30: A general view of the Dubai Skyline on April 30, 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Muslim men and women across the world observe Ramadan, a month long celebration of self-purification and restraint. During Ramadan, the Muslim community fast, abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset, breaking their fast with an Iftar meal after sunset.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

The UAE was ranked 18th out of 59 destinations in the world for overseas workers to work and live abroad, according to a new survey by global network InterNations.

The list was dominated by Asian and South American locations, with Taiwan leading the ranking for the third year in a row followed by Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Portugal, according to the Expat Insider 2021 study published on Tuesday.

Kuwait, Italy and South Africa were at the bottom of the list.

The categories in the seventh edition of the survey of more than 12,000 overseas workers included quality of life, the ease of settling in, working life, personal finance and cost of living.

Respondents also discussed how the Covid-19 pandemic had affected their life abroad. However, these responses did not influence the overall ranking, the report said.

"Expats consider the UAE to be a peaceful, safe and stable country with a lot of travel opportunities and a good transportation infrastructure," Malte Zeeck, co-founder and co-chief executive of InterNations, which has 4 million members, told The National.

“Most are also very happy with the quality of medical care in the UAE. Lastly, the UAE is an ideal destination for expats who are worried about the language barrier, as most expats find it easy to get by without speaking the local language.”

Among the GCC countries surveyed by InterNations, Bahrain led the rankings in 12th place, followed by Qatar at 17, Oman at 24 and Saudi Arabia at 42.

While Bahrain did well in terms of ease of getting settled and working abroad, it scored low on the personal finance front. Qatar also scored poorly in terms of the cost of living category.

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Expats consider the UAE to be a peaceful, safe and stable country with a lot of travel opportunities and a good transportation infrastructure

Overseas workers in the UAE are happy with the quality of life and the ease of settling in – with the country securing a ranking of 17 for both categories. The country also ranked well in the working abroad category (28th), which covers career prospects and job security.

In terms of cost of living and personal finance, the UAE came in at 44 and 56th, respectively, according to the study. About 35 per cent of overseas workers in the country earn up to $25,000 a year while 25 per cent earn at least $100,000 a year.

About three in 10 overseas workers in the UAE said their disposable household income could not cover their daily living expenses, compared with 23 per cent globally, while another 21 per cent said they had a disposable income of less than $12,000 a year, compared with 15 per cent globally.

"The UAE is known for its glamorous, fast-paced lifestyle. Those who try to keep up with it will find themselves with less disposable income than the rest," Stuart Ritchie, director of wealth advice at financial advisory AES, told The National.

“Remember the 50:30:20 rule – 50 per cent of your income should go towards your housing, food and bills while 30 per cent goes to discretionary spending such as restaurants and concerts and 20 per cent towards your investments.”

The UAE “barely compares to other global cities” such as Zurich, Hong Kong or New York when it comes to cost of living, said Mr Ritchie.

“It all comes down to how you manage your money. Do not take on unnecessary debt, avoid glamorous purchases, save what you can and live where you can afford to,” he said.

Meanwhile, under the quality-of-life category, the UAE was ranked third in the safety and security subcategory after Finland and Singapore. Nearly all overseas workers (95 per cent) said they felt safe in the UAE compared with 84 per cent worldwide, the survey said.

With the UAE performing well in the ease of settling category, 93 per cent of overseas workers said they found it easy to live here without speaking the local language, compared with the global average of 54 per cent.

Moreover, 67 per cent of foreign workers said they were comfortable with the local culture, compared with the global average of 63 per cent, while 69 per cent described it as easy to grow accustomed to, compared with 65 per cent worldwide.

Under the working abroad index, 75 per cent of foreign workers in the UAE rated the state of the local economy positively compared with 62 per cent globally, while 47 per cent said they are happy with local career opportunities.

Meanwhile, 25 per cent of foreign workers in the UAE said the Covid-19 pandemic affected their work or businesses while 16 per cent said their personal finances were affected.

In the long term, 25 per cent of overseas workers believe their personal finances will be affected the most by the pandemic, while another 20 per cent expect to feel the biggest change in their work or business.

Top 10 locations for overseas staff to work and live:

  1. Taiwan
  2. Mexico
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Malaysia
  5. Portugal
  6. New Zealand
  7. Australia
  8. Ecuador
  9. Canada
  10. Vietnam
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