According to the Expat Insider 2015 survey, family life in the UAE is rather safe but also very expensive. The vast majority of survey respondents is satisfied with their children’s health and safety, as well as their kids’ general well-being. However, while more than 60% are happy with the childcare options at hand, the UAE only ranks 36th out of 41 countries when it comes to the costs of childcare and education. After all, childcare options are aplenty, especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but they do come at a hefty price.
The Emirates, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular, offer a lot of options for expat parents who want to send their kids to a nursery or kindergarten. These childcare facilities usually prepare children for a good primary education and some of them cost as much as (or even more than) private schools. Of course, their waiting lists are just as long.
Each childcare center has its own specifications. It makes sense to contact some of the kindergartens of your choice to find out how long they are open and what the minimum age is. Many childcare facilities do not accept kids under the age of 18 months. Keep in mind that some kindergartens do not provide lunches and afternoon programs so you may have to pick your child up at lunchtime and find another arrangement for the rest of the day if you work fulltime.
Childcare centers offer a lot more than just a space for your children to play or a few supervisors who make sure that the kids eat, sleep, and don’t accidentally kill themselves. Kindergartens and childcare centers often work with dedicated and qualified staff and follow a specific curriculum or approach, such as the Montessori nursery schools, for instance.
The goal of all of them is to support children in developing social and emotional, as well as language, motoric, and academic skills. Because the approach can vary a lot for different facilities, make sure that you are on board with the rules and educational focus of the childcare center of your choice before you enroll your child.
Unlike public schools in the UAE, public childcare facilities and kindergartens usually only accept Emirati children. Fortunately, there are a myriad of private and international kindergartens for expat children in the UAE. The bad news is that most of them are located in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. If you have settled in one of these expat hubs of the country and are ready to place your child in a kindergarten, childcare center or pre-school, you should learn all about the admission process first.
Of course, the requirements will differ between facilities and it really depends on the childcare center of your choice which documents you have to submit beforehand. So make sure to contact each place you are interested in individually.
The following is an incomplete list of requirements to give you an idea of the kind of information you might have to provide:
The fees also vary strongly. Aside from the usual term fees, you might be asked to pay additional registration fees, medical fees, and deposit fees, as well as late pick up and early drop-off fees (whenever applicable). Ask the childcare facility of your choice for a detailed breakdown of the costs so that you know what you are dealing with and whether you are able to afford it in the first place.
If you are working full time and/or your child is too young to be accepted at one of the many childcare facilities in the UAE, you might want to hire a nanny or maid to take care of your little one. This is a rather common practice among expats (and well-to-do locals) in the UAE. However, it also comes with quite a few challenges and costs.
Depending on your work load and needs, you can either hire a nanny who takes care of your kids for a few hours per day or you can go with a live-in nanny instead. In any case, you as the employer will be responsible for their well-being and, in some cases, for their visa. Keep in mind that you have to adhere to certain requirements and regulations which also detail the salary your nanny should receive.
Although hiring a nanny to help take care of your children or a maid who handles the household in addition is rather common in the UAE, there has been some controversy in recent years. Many maids have been exploited as cheap labor and were denied any free time or vacation. Consequentially, many countries from which maids and nannies have traditionally been recruited, including Ethiopia, Nepal, and Indonesia, have issued bans. Thus, it has gotten harder to find a suitable maid or nanny.
Your maid or nanny should receive a monthly salary of 1,000–2,000 AED. As the best way to hire a nanny is still with the help of an agency, you also have to factor in the agency fees. Because of shortages due to the bans mentioned above, the cost of hiring a household help has also risen significantly in recent years.
You can expect to make a one-off payment of about 15,000–17,000 AED in arrangement and visa fees, in addition to the monthly salary. Every country has specific requirements regarding the minimum salary and it is important to stick to them. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t pay your nanny or maid a bit more than is recommended.) In addition, you have to pay for the plane fare to your maid’s home country once every two years, plus one month’s paid leave.
If you think that cutting some corners and hiring a maid privately can save you some money, think again! Hiring domestic help without proper sponsorship or visa can result in a 50,000 AED fine for you and a 100,000 AED fine as well as possible imprisonment for the person you hired. So make sure you are well-informed about the legal necessities.
In order to legally hire a nanny or maid, you need to sponsor their visa. The requirements are roughly as follows:
Individuals living without a family are not allowed to sponsor maids. An exception is made for female expatriates who work in certain professions, such as teachers, lawyers or doctors. They may sponsor one maid.
Please remember that you cannot hire a member of your immediate or extended family to have them qualify for visa sponsorship. Your nanny must be recruited from India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, or Bangladesh. If you wish to hire a nanny or maid from your home country, you need to obtain an affidavit from your embassy or consulate proving that they are not related to you.
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