x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE proves popular for potential migrant workers

Challenge will be to attract professionals, says report's authors.

DUBAI // The UAE is the second most popular destination behind Saudi Arabia for people looking to move to the Gulf, according to a survey released today.

Forty-one per cent of those who said they would move to the Emirates were educated to primary school level. Only 6 per cent had a degree or four years of education beyond secondary school, the Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre said in Potential Migration and the GCC.

Dalia Mogahed, the director of the centre, said governments needed to manage their country's image to appeal to professional migrants. "Policymakers must pay attention to what kinds of people their country's global image is attracting," she said. "How do they manage the nation's brand globally to attract the professionals they desire? That will be the key challenge."

About one in four people who wanted to go to Australia had a college degree or four years of education beyond secondary school, 1 in 13 for the US, 1 in 17 for the UAE and 1 in 50 for Saudi Arabia.

Between 15 and 17 per cent of those who said they said wanted to migrate to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US and Japan described themselves as "professional workers". Australia and Switzerland attracted nearly twice as high a percentage.

The report drew from a global sample of nearly 350,000 people interviewed between 2007 and 2009. Of those, about 75,000 said they would like to move to another country.

According to Ms Mogahed, more people may have picked Saudi Arabia (52 per cent) than the UAE (35 per cent) because of its lower cost of living and religious significance to Muslims.

And with its larger pool of migrants, they may already know someone there, she said.Jhun Regala, a 46-year-old Filipino who has worked in Dubai since 2008, is counting the days until he can return to Saudi Arabia, where he lived for 15 years before leaving because of visa problems.

His main problem with Dubai, he said, was that it was too expensive. “The big difference is the cost of living. The cost of living here is very high,” he said. “The cost of living in Saudi is very cheap.” Renting a bedroom in Saudi Arabia cost him Dh390 a month compared with a bed space in Dubai for Dh700, he said.

In Saudi Arabia, he said he could save Dh2,450 each month – practically his entire salary. In three years in Dubai he had saved nothing, he said, partly because things cost more and because his two children had joined him.

According to the Gallup survey, nearly 98 per cent of those who said they wanted to move to the Emirates came from Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

About two thirds of those who wanted to move here were between 15 and 29 years old, versus just under half for Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Australia and the US.

Azfar Khan, a migration specialist at the International Labour Organization’s regional office in Beirut, said the findings were not surprising, given most migrants to the UAE were low and semi-skilled workers from Asian countries.

The low-paying jobs they tended to take – for example, in construction, services and domestic work – also often required young people, he said. Of those who wanted to move to the UAE, 46 per cent came from Asia, 33 per cent from the Mena region, 19 per cent from sub-Saharan Africa, 2 per cent from Europe and less than 1 per cent from the Americas.

Indians, Egyptians and Pakistanis made up nearly half of those who said they wanted to migrate to the Emirates.Of those who wanted to move to Saudi Arabia, 53 per cent were from Asia, 23 per cent from the Mena region, 24 per cent from sub-Saharan Africa and less than 1 per cent each from Europe and the Americas.

Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Nigerians and Pakistanis made up 70 per cent of those who wanted to move to Saudi Arabia. Some high-income nations outside the Gulf attracted a higher percentage of westerners.

For example, of those who said they wanted to move to Australia, 9 per cent came from the Americas and 29 per cent from Europe.

chuang@thenational.ae