All roads lead to Dubai for the workers deserting Britain's sinking ship

Many are abandoning the pandemic-fuelled gloom of the UK for sunnier climes in the UAE

John McGrath created a TikTok video about his life in Dubai, which went viral. Photo: John McGrath
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John McGrath left the UK for the UAE for many of the usual reasons — the tax-free salary, the good standard of living and the year-round sunshine.

And when he sat down and thought about it, he realised just how much more money he took home each month living and working in Dubai.

So he created a TikTok video to share the salary comparison with the world.

At a time when the UK economy is teetering on the brink of recession, inflation is hovering around 10 per cent and taxes are on the rise, it serves to underline how poorly the UK is doing on an international basis.

The exercise in totting up monthly goings in the UK and UAE has since notched more than four million views. In the video, the primary schoolteacher shows how much he would have earned in the UK after the many deductions, such as taxes, rent, car finance and food, from a salary of £33,850 ($41,074) — leaving him just £171.94 for socialising and saving each month.

But in Dubai, thanks to free accommodation provided by his employer and no income tax, he has £1,604 left each month from his £32,460 annual salary after paying bills and buying food.

“I get all [year] round sunshine, and I get health care provided by my employer and I only have to pay 20 per cent [insurance] co-pay, which means anything as an outpatient, I pay 20 per cent for, but I get to see a doctor or a dentist on the day,” the 36-year-old from Redcar says in the video.


UAE salaries at a glance: in pictures


“And I have to pay only between £10 and £15 to see them. I am not paying any tax, so I am fine with that. Hashtag move to Dubai,” he added.

He is by no means alone. Facebook groups in the UAE are reporting an increase in the number of people seeking advice on how to move to the country.

Keren Bobker, who runs the British Expats Dubai group, which has almost 12,000 members, said: “We have seen an upsurge in membership in the jobs group from people in the UK hoping to move to the UAE.”

Members of her group planning a move abroad include Saima Rashid, 42, from the north of England. She will move to Dubai in two weeks.

“The move is something I had been thinking about for a while. Initially it was just mainly to do with the weather, because it is fairly gloomy.

“But I think the main driving factor was the last couple of years with Covid.”

Her mother became sick at the end of last year, and the family were prevented from visiting her in hospital. It was the final straw, she said.

“That was quite distressing. We had no say in what was happening. That was the main push.”

She said she feels there has also been a “deterioration in everything” in the past couple of years.

“And I am a [high-rate] taxpayer as well. So when I think of all the taxes I am paying I feel there is no benefit,” she added.

Those factors led her to seek a transfer to Dubai. She has visited on holiday and has friends and family who live there.

“I chose Dubai and I think the reason was, when I went on holiday, I felt it was pretty safe to walk around,” she said. “Because I will be living by myself, I wanted to move somewhere I would feel safe.

“Sometimes here, when it’s a bit dark, you have that feeling you are put in a vulnerable position. And obviously it’s tax-free and good weather.”

Covid was also a factor in the decision by Alessandra Sestito’s family to move to Dubai.

The couple moved with their daughter, 11, from Surrey last August because they were tired of feeling stuck at home during the pandemic.

Alessandra Sestito and her husband Lino, who moved to Dubai last August. Photo: Alessandra Sestito

It was “comfortable, but basically the lifestyle of an 80-year-old”, said Ms Sestito, 47, who is originally from Italy but now holds British citizenship.

“I felt we needed a change. I started to think of the best place for us.

“The dream was: always sunny, English-speaking country, good salary and amazing British schools for our daughter. It wasn't easy. After researching, Dubai seemed the place.”

They miss aspects of the UK but are happy they made the move.

Chandni Adatia, who lives in England, would also like to relocate to Dubai. The family have already visited 10 times and fell in love with the country.

“I love the weather, it’s a lot safer and cost of living is similar to UK. My husband is looking for a job but it’s hard to find one,” she said.

“He has been applying but has not heard anything yet. If my hubby finds something we will definitely move as a family.”

Updated: January 15, 2023, 1:57 PM