x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

School year end makes movers busy

Increasing school fees, job losses and higher costs of living are all contributing to the decision by many expatriates to head for home.

Movers load boxes into a lorry to be shipped overseas by Allied Pickfords. Shipping companies are busier than usual as expatriate families leave Dubai after the end of the school year due to the recession.
Movers load boxes into a lorry to be shipped overseas by Allied Pickfords. Shipping companies are busier than usual as expatriate families leave Dubai after the end of the school year due to the recession.

As the school year draws to a close Dubai is bracing itself for a significant fall in population. Within weeks thousands of expatriate families are expected to pack their bags and leave the country, waving goodbye to their life in the sun thanks to the global recession.

Redundancies, soaring school fees and the rising cost of living in the UAE are behind the exodus. There have been waves of job cuts since the beginning of the year, but many parents have been waiting for the end of the school term this month before leaving for good. A report from the investment bank UBS has said the population of Dubai could plummet by eight per cent this year. The developments mean big business for removal firms who say they have seen an increase in bookings of up to 30 per cent for June and July, while some parents on internet chat rooms complain of struggling to find carriers because they are "booked solid" over the summer months.

Derek Garlick, UAE general manager of the Allied Pickfords removal firm, said: "There is always an exodus at this time of year because it is the peak season but we have been busier than normal all year. "In a typical year, we would be 70 per cent busier during June and July but since the beginning of this year, we have seen a steady increase of 20 per cent in people leaving on top of that. "We deal with a lot of large companies and, as everyone knows, a lot of people have been made redundant and that is the main reason for the increase.

"In August and September, there is usually an increase in imports to replace those who have left. The view is that those numbers will be significantly down." He said the firm was relocating up to 20 families a day. "We are extremely busy. We have a massive fleet but towards the end of June there is limited availability. "In the past when people left, it was to move position to another country. This time it is simply that a lot of people have been made redundant and there are not going to be people to replace them.

"The inquiry level from overseas about coming to Dubai is significantly lower year on year. "What will be interesting is to see whether, in a month or two, are there going to be people to replace those leaving? The answer is probably not." More than a third of the relocating families are returning to the UK while other popular destinations are continental Europe and Australia. Sharee Condat, operations manager at Euro Movers in Dubai, said four extra teams and additional lorries had been drafted in to cope with the expected increase in demand over the summer months.

"On a regular day we were doing four removals - now it is nine. We are almost fully booked until August. The international removals to places like the UK, France, Germany and Belgium have gone up as people have lost their jobs. We have also noticed an increase in local removals as people trying to save money are moving into smaller places." Jithosh Sudhakar, head of operations at Dasa International Movers, said: "We are seeing about 30 per cent more business this year because of the recession.

"Normally these months are very heavy as people wait until the end of the academic year to relocate but this is busier than usual as people are moving home permanently." He said Europe, Australia and India have topped the list of places expatriates are returning to. Chirantan Joshi, sales manager at E-Movers, said inquiries about international relocations had been rising since January, when many companies began shedding staff.

In a further sign of a mass departure from UAE shores, a Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry study said increasing numbers of expatriate parents were pulling their children out of schools and sending them home as fees rocketed. Experts say some schools are bracing themselves for the possibility of half-empty classes when their new year begins in autumn. Under guidelines from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, parents can secure school places for their children with a Dh500 (US$135) deposit and do not have to pay full fees until 30 days after term begins in September.

Clive Pierrepont, director of communications at Taaleem, which runs eight schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, said: "We have 338 children on our waiting list but come September, it is easier to write off Dh500 than it is, say, Dh2,000. "A lot of parents are probably leaving but they definitely have not told us or their children yet. We have had a task force working on this scenario for the past nine months.

"There are a lot of transient people but so far, figures are comparable to last year. Some are trading up as parents will make economies for the education of their children, who are their first priority." If people are leaving, children will benefit from smaller classes, he said. One school in Dubai, which chose not to be named, has seen about 10 per cent of its places left vacant. Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline both reported brisk business over the summer but said it was comparable with previous years.

Meanwhile, police have reported more than 3,000 cars had been dumped in a year - more than twice the usual number - by owners avoiding loan repayments. tyaqoob@thenational.ae