UAE one of best places to live in the world for migrants

The Emirates, Portugal and Taiwan are the biggest risers in the past decade, an independent poll by Gallup finds

Migrants from all corners of the globe have brought their families to the Emirates to build new lives. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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The UAE is one of the most welcoming places in the world for migrants, a new poll has revealed.

A global survey carried out by analysts Gallup found 87 per cent of respondents in the Emirates felt the country was a good place to live for people from other nations - well above the global average of 54 per cent and up 15 per cent on a previous study in 2010.

The UAE ranked sixth on the worldwide table of positive attitudes to migration, with Canada leading the way on 90 per cent, ahead of New Zealand (89 per cent), Norway (88 per cent), Australia and Portugal (both 87 per cent).

The country's openness to foreign investment has made it a very attractive destination for hundreds of thousands of workers and their families

The statistics were collected through thousands of interviews via phone and in person to understand UAE attitudes towards immigrants.

Migrant workers have played a crucial role in the rapid development of the UAE since its formation in 1971, with expatriates making up close to 90 per cent of the country's near-10 million population.

Murtaza Khan, a managing partner at immigration advisors Fragomen, said the UAE’s rise through the rankings was not a surprise as national growth continues.

“The UAE continues to expand its offering of high quality lifestyle choices, housing, education and healthcare, and with the exception of consumption taxes such as VAT, it remains largely free of personal or income taxes,” he said.

“The government's focus of enabling happiness and tolerance among UAE nationals and residents has been core to its strategy of strengthening its position.”

Survey questions were asked in Arabic and English to Emiratis, Arab and non-Arab expatriates.

The Migrant Acceptance Index evaluated people's personal feelings about migrants.

Pollsters asked if people believed their communities are good places for newcomers to live, providing an insight into how people around the world see migrants fitting into society.


“National reforms have strengthened the UAE's position as a leading destination for migrant workers,” said Mr Khan.

“These have led to an overall increase in its attractiveness by offering a more transparent route to seeking employment and by offering significant protection of worker rights.

We have seen increased transparency of information, creating channels and programmes of awareness, enhanced workforce mobility and more career options.

“The country's openness to foreign investment has made it a very attractive destination for hundreds of thousands of workers and their families.”

Global results suggest despite the world becoming more polarised on the issue of migration, people in most regions are at least as likely, if not more likely, to view their communities as welcoming for migrants.

A visitor looks at the view of the city skyline from a breakwater in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Abu Dhabi sold $10 billion of bonds in a three-part deal in its first international offering in two years as it takes advantage of relatively low borrowing costs. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
Dubai and Abu Dhabi also rank among the safest cities globally. Christopher Pike / Bloomberg

More than half of adults (54 per cent) across 143 countries that Gallup surveyed in 2018 said their cities or communities are good places for immigrants to live, up from 47 per cent in 2010.

The poll also highlighted the greater divides emerging in some countries, and the challenges this poses for cohesive migrant policies.

Along with the UAE, Portugal and Taiwan have also seen double-digit increases in the percentage who say their communities are good for migrants.

Dina Etman, moved to the UAE with her daughter, 10, and son, 2, a month ago. They joined her husband who came a few months earlier for work.

This is the first time the 40-year-old has lived outside of her home country, Egypt.

"In Cairo we suffer from traffic, the closest destination takes a very long time to reach; we are a huge population," she said.

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"Here everybody follows the traffic rules and the streets are in order."

She found it quite easy to get her residency visa and hire a nanny.

"I felt that I was always welcomed wherever I went, as an Egyptian, everybody treated me nicely.

"It was also very easy to register my daughter in school."

New arrival Russell Robertson, 41, moved to Dubai from London five months ago.

“Everything is very convenient in Dubai and it is a good work environment. My wife is moving over here at the end of the year so we have found a new apartment for the end of the year," he said.

“You have to find out what suits your family needs, but there is a lot of choice.

“My commute into London was over an hour, now it is just minutes so the work-life balance is much better.”

Mr Robertson was placed on an oil project in Abu Dhabi soon after arriving.

“I was the only Westerner, but I felt very welcome,” he said.

“My boss was very helpful, even to the point of arranging Arabic lessons for me through a friend

“I have never felt like an outsider here.”

Medical malpractice lawyer Alexandra De Canha moved to the UAE from Johannesburg, Soouth Africa, with her husband and three-year-old daughter, just over a year ago.

“People in general have been friendly and welcoming,” she said.

“The safety issue was a big issue for us and there is so much going on in Abu Dhabi for families.

“I work with a few Emiratis who are very pleasant and friendly.

“When we see them around I say hello in Arabic, I think they appreciate that.

“It is important for us to show we are making an effort.”

Narrowly missing the top cut are a host of other top-receiving countries, including the United Kingdom (79 per cent), the United States (78 per cent), Saudi Arabia (78 per cent) and the Netherlands (78 per cent).

The UAE also tops the World Bank’s list of nations across the Middle East and Africa for ease of doing business, and ranks 11th on a global list.

In 2019, Dubai and Abu Dhabi ranked the top two cities in MENA in a Quality of Living survey by Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers.