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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The UAE Is a Safe & Modern Destination for Expats

They love the quality of living and their working life, but struggle with their finances.

The UAE performs especially well in the Expat Essentials Index (2nd), ranking right behind Bahrain (1st). Expats are particularly happy with the ease of handling Admin Topics (3rd) in the UAE. First of all, 83% found it easy to get a visa to move there, compared to only 56% globally, ranking the UAE first worldwide for this factor. Once they arrive, over three in five expats (61%) have no problem dealing with the local bureaucracy/authorities, 21 percentage points more than the global average (40%).

It might help that administrative/government services are widely available online (86% happy vs. 61% globally) and that it is easy to live in the UAE without speaking the local language (85% agree vs. 51% globally). “The government system is the best,” an Indian expat shares.

Ups & Downs for Digital Life

Online government services are just one highlight of the Digital Life Subcategory (14th). Expats also find it easy to get high-speed internet access at home (87% happy vs. 79% globally) and to pay without cash (90% vs. 84% globally). However, about one in five (19%) are unhappy with their access to online services, such as social media (vs. 7% globally). A US American expat notes that the “blocked social media” is something he dislikes most about life in the UAE, while an Australian expat says that the “restrictions on communications make it difficult to stay in touch with home”.

Getting Around to Great Activities

The UAE scores another top 10 ranking in the Quality of Life Index (5th). Expats are particularly happy with the Leisure Options (3rd): most expats appreciate the culinary variety and dining options (86% vs. 77% globally), as well as the culture and nightlife (81% vs. 67% globally).

Expats also love their ability to get around easily, ranking the country fifth for Travel & Transit. Nine in ten (90%) are happy with their travel opportunities (vs. 82% globally), and 95% rate the infrastructure for cars positively (vs. 75% globally). The UAE ranks first worldwide for the latter.

Great Health Services in a Safe Environment

The Safety & Security (7th) and Health & Well-Being (9th) Subcategories are another two areas where expats are especially pleased. They vote the country third for personal safety, as nearly all expats (94%) are happy with this factor (vs. 81% globally). “I feel safe as a woman to go out walking on dark evenings. In the day I do not fear any theft,” reports a British expat. Expats are also very satisfied with the political stability in the UAE (86% happy vs. 64% globally). However, less than half (47%) agree that they can openly express themselves and their opinions, compared to 64% globally.

In terms of Health & Well-Being (9th), 78% of expats find it easy to access all the kinds of healthcare services they need (vs. 67% globally). Expats also rank the quality of medical care (6th) and availability of healthcare (6th) very highly. However, only 56% find healthcare affordable, which is slightly below the global average (61%).

Mixed Views on the Environment

With the UAE ranking 14th in the Environment & Climate Subcategory, this is the country’s weakest area in the Quality of Life Index. It is mainly due to the natural environment (44th), with 14% of expats unhappy with this factor (vs. 8% globally). The climate and weather (31st) and the air quality (22nd) also get mediocre ratings.

However, nearly three in four expats (72%) are pleased with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 64% globally). “Sustainability is practiced by all, nothing is wasted,” a Pakistani expat shares. More than four in five (83%) agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 61% globally).

A Welcoming Place to Settle In

The UAE ranks quite well when it comes to the Ease of Settling In Index (13th). It performs best in the Culture & Welcome Subcategory (10th), with 77% saying that they feel welcome there (vs. 66% globally). About two in three (65%) also report that they are happy with their social life (vs. 56% globally). Overall, 69% describe the local population as friendly (vs. 66% globally), and 74% consider them particularly friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 65% globally).

Excellent Working Conditions

Expats seem to love Working Abroad in the UAE, voting the country fifth in this index. It even places third in the Career Prospects Subcategory: about four in five expats (79%) feel that moving there has improved their career prospects (vs. 60% globally), ranking the country first worldwide for this factor. It is hardly a surprise that they are also happy with their personal career opportunities (65% vs. 58% globally) and the local job market (55% vs. 47% globally).

The Work Culture & Satisfaction Subcategory (5th) is another highlight. Expats feel that the local business culture encourages creativity / thinking outside the box (2nd) and promotes independent work and/or flat hierarchies (8th). “The country encourages ambition, innovation, and pursuing opportunities,” says an expat from Australia.

Financial Struggles

In the Salary & Job Security Subcategory (17th), the UAE lands among both the top and the bottom 10 destinations worldwide. It ranks sixth for the state of the economy, and 87% of expats are happy with this factor (vs. 64% globally). However, only 55% feel that they are paid fairly for their work, based on industry, qualifications, and their role (vs. 62% globally). This lands the UAE in the bottom 10 for this factor (44th). “The government should set a minimum wage,” shares a South African expat. “So many expats are underpaid.” In fact, about one in three expats (33%) earn less than 12,000 USD per year, compared to only 18% globally.

This may be a reason why the country’s worst performance is in the Personal Finance Index (34th). Over one in three expats (36%) feel that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 28% globally), placing the country in the bottom 10 for this factor (46th). “The UAE is quite expensive in all aspects,” an Indian expat explains.

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