The UAE is among the top three most-desirable destinations for expatriates, thanks to high salaries and its ease of access to "luxuries", a survey released yesterday said. The survey, which was sponsored by the British bank HSBC, brought together responses from 2,155 expatriates. Respondents were mainly white-collar workers and not the labourers who comprise the lion's share of expatriates in the UAE. Singapore took top honours in the survey, which ranked popular expatriate destinations by salaries, longevity of stay, luxuries and accommodation. The UAE came in a close second, followed by the US, Belgium and Hong Kong. The UAE's best score came in the luxury category, where it topped the 15 countries measured. Expatriates reported having better access to 10 out of 11 selected luxuries in the UAE, compared with their home countries. The luxuries ranged from a swimming pool to private health care and a club membership. The UAE also scored well in the "earn and save" category, coming in behind only India, Singapore and Hong Kong. Expatriates in the UAE were spending more money but also managed to save more than they had in their country of origin, thanks largely to higher salaries, the survey found. Overall, the survey found that while 52 per cent of expatriates spent more on food than in their home countries, and 45 per cent spent more on social activities, 58 per cent reported saving and investing more. "The survey simply asks people who have moved, say, from the UK to the UAE, how this has had an impact on their lives," said Paul Say, a spokesman for HSBC International, the bank's offshore wing. "The survey is finding that people have more disposable income and that quality of life is much better."
Yet the positive results for the UAE come in the wake of an accelerating inflation rate that is eating away at the buying power of GCC salaries. Overall inflation in the UAE stood at 11.4 per cent last year and is expected to rise to 11.8 per cent this year, according to a Reuters poll. Surging housing costs coupled with a worldwide rise in food costs have driven the broad increase in prices. Rents in Abu Dhabi rose by an average of 49 per cent in the twelvemonth period ending in June, a recent survey said. The emirate's Department of Planning and Economy recently estimated that rents had risen by 18 per cent in the first quarter of this year alone. "Expats tend to have more financial freedom, and our survey says they are able to save and spend more despite the economic conditions," Mr Say said. He added that the survey was conducted in February and April and did not reflect changes in global conditions since that period. While the UAE's expatriates are finding their high quality of life a little more pricey these days, the HSBC survey found respondents to be mostly happy with their existence here. The country ranked seventh in terms of duration of stay, with a high proportion of respondents saying they had lived in the country for three years or more. Europe fared less well in the survey. The UK and France were "among the lowest-rated destinations", the report said. The richest expatriates came from Brazil, Ireland and Australia, the survey reported. The report was the first of three that HSBC plans to release this year. The second report will focus on expatriate children, while the third will plumb the cultural integration of expatriates.