x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Forbes takes back 'unfriendly UAE' label, dubs country 'expat paradise'

The country now ranks in top three in a new article by the business website.

DUBAI // The business website Forbes.com has admitted the data that led to it naming the UAE as the least friendly country for expatriates was "non-scientific".

Expatriates and Emiratis hit out on Twitter this week after the hashtag #UAEFriendly was created for posts on the subject.

"The world's friendliest countries", an article by an American contributor, Beth Greenfield, was based on HSBC's latest Expat Explorer survey, which gathered the views of 3,385 expatriates in 100 nations.

"Given the UAE's reputation as a crossroads for world commerce and culture, we were surprised by the results of HSBC's survey," Forbes told The National. "The data is, of course, non-scientific and intended only to spur discussion."

Forbes.com has also published a new article by the managing editor, Dan Bigman, in which, based on the same data, he refers to the UAE as an "expat paradise".

Mr Bigman writes of "the usual kerfuffles in the press over who ranked where and how and why", and points out that the survey's findings are divided into many categories.

He then makes a point highlighted by some commentators that if you select all of the categories on the website, the UAE comes out as the third top expat destination.

"According to HSBC's survey, expat paradise does exist: in Singapore, Hong Kong or the United Arab Emirates," Mr Bigman says.

Lisa Wood, the head of marketing at HSBC Expat, defended the data, saying: "The Expat Explorer survey is the largest global survey of expats.

"A recent article on Forbes used our 2011 data to create their own new metric for 'friendliness' based on our data.

"The survey data is intended to be a package and so while third parties are free to use our data as they wish, HSBC Expat does not endorse any interpretations of the original data."

Ms Greenfield has not responded to requests for comment. The Forbes senior vice president, Monie Begley, explained the company's policy was that no author could comment on a "media issue".

Four categories were isolated in Ms Greenfield's original article: the ability to befriend locals; success in learning the local language; capacity for integrating into the community; and ease of fitting into the new culture.

"The least friendly country for expats, according to the Forbes formula, was the United Arab Emirates," she wrote.

Some critics said the four factors did not reflect all the elements that made up "friendliness".

Others pointed to the latest figures from the UAE National Bureau of Statistics, which show that expats make up 88.5 per cent of the population, and questioned how the UAE could be unfriendly when so many people from abroad chose to live here.

The formula used by Forbes has been criticised by Falcon and Associates, a company set up to promote Dubai.

"It is clear that the Forbes findings are very misleading, doubtless based on the narrow methodology they chose, which has skewed findings to not be in the least representative of the reality experienced by the some 7 million expats who enjoy living in the UAE," said the Falcon chief executive, Giselle Pettyfer, in a rare public statement.

"Residents, as well as people from around the world who visit the UAE for business or pleasure, know this country to be a place of opportunity and tolerance. Why else do so many people come here to live?"

Posts have continued to appear on Twitter under the UAEFriendly hashtag - and by far most are critical of Forbes.

Brendan Ryan, of Dubai, tweeted: "I've developed a fantastic social circle and career in UAE. Who did "Is #UAEFriendly for expats? Sure! Saying anything else (#HSBC #FORBES) is misinformed at best & vacuous drivel at worst."

Talib Al Hashimi, of Dubai, joked: "I just heard from a source that @Forbes and @HSBC are goin' to own up and admit the survey was meant to be released Apr 1st."

Forbes is scheduled to stage its Global CEO Conference in Dubai on October 21 to 23.