Spending in UAE feels impact of downturn

Residents are cutting back on purchases and feel more stressed than in the rest of the Middle East region, according to a new poll.

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People in the UAE are being hit harder by the economic downturn than those in other Middle Eastern countries, according to a new survey. The latest gloomy economic snapshot chimes with the findings of a survey carried out by the international polling company YouGov for The National earlier this month, in which one in 10 respondents said they had lost their job in the past six months, while two-thirds said close friends or members of their family had been made redundant.

According to the new survey, published yesterday and carried out by YouGov in conjunction with the jobs website Bayt.com, residents in the UAE are cutting back on spending more than elsewhere in the region and suffering more from stress as a result of the recession. Nassim Ghrayeb, the head of YouGov in the Middle East and North Africa, said the results had shown the same trend during the past six months.

"We have seen UAE consumers are cutting back considerably on their spending. Now, despite some signs of optimism at the grass-roots level in the global economy, it seems the trend of being more price-conscious looks set to continue, at least in the short term." Almost half of UAE respondents, 43 per cent, said they had cut their household expenditure, and 45 per cent of those cutting back said it was in response to the recession. In the region overall, 30 per cent of those polled said they had cut their spending, while more than a quarter had increased their budget.

Thirty-one per cent of UAE respondents also had health concerns. This was closely followed by Kuwait, with 29 per cent reporting ill health. Across the region, 27 per cent said they had issues with their health and 13 per cent said their family's health had been affected by the recession. "Aside from the financial and job-related concerns that respondents across the region have, what we are witnessing is that the effects of the recession are permeating into people's lives, to the point where their physical and mental health is affected - something that is not often heard about," added Mr Ghayreb.

Many people in the Emirates were willing to sell off their investments to cope with financial difficulty, with 24 per cent expecting to cash in at some point. In contrast, 56 per cent in Bahrain said they would never reach that point. Other ways people are managing their personal finances during the global downturn include sending their family back to their home countries, of which 14 per cent in the UAE admitted to, or moving to a less expensive area, of which there were 16 per cent in the Emirates.

In the case of redundancy, 38 per cent in the UAE said they would accept a job on a lower salary, compared with 31 per cent of all respondents in the region. Throughout the Middle East, 36 per cent felt they were better off before the recession compared with 41 per cent in the UAE. Almost half of UAE respondents, 48 per cent, said this was due to job loss while 23 per cent said a salary cut provoked this feeling.

"According to the study, job losses featured most strongly in the UAE, suggesting that redundancies have been much more widespread in the Emirates," said Mr Ghayreb. Apart from cutting spending, seeking employment in a different country is a popular option among all respondents, with a quarter saying they had moved. YouGov collated the figures between May 26 and June 28 among 12,908 men and women over the age of 18 from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Pakistan.