Are expats staying in or leaving the UAE?
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Are expats staying in or leaving the UAE?

This year there have been varying reports about the expat population of the United Arab Emirates. One month we have articles stating that the population is set to grow, and the next month there are predictions of a mass exodus of expatriates from the country. So who is right? Here, UMI examines the arguments on both sides and states what our prediction is for UAE expats near future.

If you live in the UAE, the odds are that you were not born here. That’s right; expatriates make up a majority the population of the UAE. In fact recent figures have revealed that only 19% of the population is of Emirati descent. 50% of the country consists of South Asian people, 23% Arab and Iranian people, and 8% people from other parts of the world. Having said that, it’s easy to see why making sure that the expat population continues to thrive is important to the stability and success of the UAE. So what does the future hold for the expat population of the Emirates? Well, there have been some conflicting ideas on this subject as of late. Here, we will discuss the arguments that have been made for the UAE’s expat population either growing or shrinking in the coming years.


A future of growth

Past reports have stated that the total population of the UAE is expected to grow. By 2030 it is predicted that the UAE’s population will rise to nearly 12.5 million from the 9.5 million the country currently touts. In Dubai in particular, the Emirates population is expected to double to 5 million by the same year. Based on these figures, it makes sense why articles were published in May 2016 that reported that expats were opting to stay longer in the UAE.

The main crux of this piece revolved around housing prices in the UAE, and how they have fallen by 10% to 13% recently, which has enabled more expats in the country to consider staying in the country long term. What’s more, not only are people now more likely to buy housing, rent is cheaper as well, enabling people to stay longer. Experts expect rents to fall anywhere between 3% and 10% in 2016. What about the other side of the argument, though?


Expats in decline?

After the previously mentioned articles were published, it only took about a month for a bunch of articles to appear that foreshadowed a possible future that could see a mass outflow of expats from the UAE.

One of the first aspects that gets pointed to by some is that the vast majority of expats in the UAE have no path to Emirati citizenship. Because of this, there is a lack of enticement for people to stay for an extended period in order to gain some sort of advantage. Sure, they have access to the UAE job market and amenities of the country, but there is no clear goal for new arrivals as far as trying to stay for a certain number of years in order to gain additional privileges as a UAE citizen.

This is not the biggest factor owing to expats potentially leaving the country, though. Nor is the real estate market that was highlighted as the cause of expats extending their stays here. The common reasoning for predicting a mass exodus of expats from the UAE is a high cost of living combined with a shaky job market.

This is, of course, largely related to the slump in the price of oil that we have been seeing in recent years. As such, this trend may be contained to only certain industries, namely the banking & finance and oil & gas sectors. Since companies in these industries have been affected by the global oil economy so greatly, people who are let go from jobs with these companies will likely have a harder time finding new work than they would have previously, forcing them to leave the country. Additionally, companies have to tighten their belts and cut jobs in order to retain profitability, so some expats are vacating their current professional roles involuntarily.

Additionally, for some expats the cost of living in the UAE is simply too high even though they are employed. A YouGov study found that 50% of employed expats would consider moving away from the UAE due to the high cost of living.

As far as the definitive future of the UAE’s expats, at this time it really could go either way depending on global trends, especially as it pertains to the oil industry that is so important to the Middle East. However, given the track record of growth that the UAE has seen for decades, the smart bet would appear to be to expect the expat population to continue to grow.

If you find yourself in the camp of expats that will be staying in the UAE long term, you will no doubt want to have access to the best quality healthcare possible for yourself and your family. For this reason, it is good to have a private health insurance policy that goes above and beyond the plans with minimal benefits that are out there. With international private medical insurance plans from UAE Medical Insurance, you will have superior levels of coverage that will allow access to the very best hospitals and doctors in the UAE. As well, when you are outside of the UAE, you will still be able to receive medical care in any healthcare facility of your choosing. Contact us today for more details about available plans and pricing.


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