• HSBC survey highlights UAE’s entrepreneurial environment, job prospects, and better salaries as primary factors attracting expats from across the world 
  • Three in five believe their overall quality of life is better here than in their home country

Dubai: Despite the volatility in the global economy and insecurity in job markets, the UAE’s diverse business landscape and its position as a hub in the Middle East means that it continues to be an attractive destination for expats from across the world.

According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer 2015 survey, the country has been singled out for the opportunities it offers people looking to build their careers or for those seeking to start their own businesses, with Dubai being chosen as the second best city globally for expat entrepreneurs.

Now in its eighth year, the survey examined the responses of 21,950 expats from across the world, and 2,000 in the UAE, to assess their views towards life in their host countries.

Although the high costs of living and raising children were cited as concerns by those in the UAE, career progression opportunities, high salaries, generous benefits packages, and a greater quality of life meant that the country was ranked the ninth best place globally to set up a home.

A haven for ambitious entrepreneurs

HSBC’s research shows that expat entrepreneurs are being drawn to the world’s financial hubs, with a vast majority saying that Singapore (87%), Dubai (86%), Hong Kong and London (both 85%) are good places to start a business, far outpacing the global average of 56%.

These cities provide the ideal foundations for ambitious entrepreneurial expats due to the good business conditions, world-class infrastructure, and work/life balance they offer. 

A high level of confidence in the local economy is another reason that makes these cities attractive, with 56% of expats in Dubai citing this sentiment, while over two thirds (68%) say that the Emirate also offers political stability.

These attitudes appear to be well-founded as the UAE ranks 22nd globally out of 189 countries in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, scoring well in areas such as paying taxes, trading across borders, dealing with construction permits and registering property.

“Given these supportive conditions, it’s not surprising that Dubai attracts twice as many expats looking to start their own businesses (9%) compared to the global average (4%). This is a ringing endorsement of the government’s diversification efforts and its investment in setting up the infrastructure needed to nurture entrepreneurs,” said Khalid Elgibali, Head of Retail Banking & Wealth Management, UAE and MENA, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited.

Opportunities for career-driven expats

Despite global employment growth stalling at 1.4 percent according to the International Labour Organisation,  the UAE remains a bright spot as expats continue to flock to the country due to the better job prospects and higher salaries on offer.

Over half (53%) say that the country is a good place to advance a career – compared to the global average of 41% -- while a large number also believe it is a good place to acquire new skills (47%).

In addition to the opportunities for career progression, the UAE is ranked highly for wage growth. According to the survey, expats say that on average they earn $124,000 per annum, which is nearly 20% above than the global average ($104,000 per annum).

Expats here also enjoy generous benefits packages from employers, with the Middle East leading the way globally in this regard.

In addition to financial assistance such as annual airfare allowances, more than half (55%) of the expats here say that they receive accommodation support, compared to the global average of 33%.

This is helpful as the cost of living is an area of concern with almost eight out of ten (79%) stating that their accommodation is more expensive, and 60% highlighting that they spend more on bills, than in their home countries.

“We recognise that high cost of living presents challenges for expats. While there certainly are aspects that are out of people’s controls, we see that nearly two thirds (65%) say that they have more disposable income since they moved to the country, which means that these expenses can be managed through better financial planning.

“On the whole, the UAE continues to be a popular choice for expats as three in five (60%) feel their overall quality of life is better here. This validation from expats shows that the country is one of the best destinations globally for those looking to move abroad to make a better life for themselves and their families,” Elgibali added.