Abu Dhabi to make exceptions to 'live local' policy

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Abu Dhabi is prepared in principle to make exceptions to its policy requiring all of its public sector employees to live inside the emirate, its government said on Thursday.

It was the first time that the government had explicitly said it would compromise on the policy, which could pressure thousands of expatriate professionals and other workers to move to Abu Dhabi from neighbouring Dubai.

Abu Dhabi, which has a population of about 2.5 million, announced last September that employees of government institutions, including state-owned firms, would lose their housing allowances if they lived outside the emirate. It gave a one-year grace period for people to move.

The policy affected many expatriates who work in Abu Dhabi but live in Dubai for lifestyle or family reasons, or because housing rents in Dubai can be cheaper.

While the government said the new rule aimed to cut traffic accidents during the one-hour commute between the cities, analysts said the policy also appeared designed to benefit Abu Dhabi's economy by absorbing a large supply of new high-end homes that is set to come on the market. Property prices in the emirate have tumbled about 50 percent since the global financial crisis hit the market several years ago.

In a statement to Reuters, however, the government said on Thursday that it was willing to make exceptions based on circumstances, though it did not describe those conditions.

"A circular was issued in September 2012 concerning the housing policy for Abu Dhabi government employees. The circular will be effective at the end of this coming September as the deadline was set a year ago to give employees enough time to resettle in Abu Dhabi," the General Secretariat of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council said.

"The circular is binding on all Abu Dhabi government employees. Nonetheless, special cases that require exception will be considered and assessed. Appropriate decisions will be made to each case separately."

Precise figures for the number of Abu Dhabi government employees living outside the emirate have not been released, but analysts have estimated it at roughly 15,000-20,000. It is not clear how many have already moved.

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Posted by: Doug

I'm going to take a really wild guess and suggest whether you're an expat or a UAE national is going to have something of a bearing on whether or not an exception is made for you.

Posted by: john

@JEAN LEWIS - I hate to say this, but why didn't you leave your job? Why don't you leave now? Abu Dhabi is clutching at straws, trying anything to force people to move to the undesirable emirate. I see many synergies between AD and Kuwait and we can all see how that is going to end.

Only when expats refuse to play these games will the authorities be forced to play fair. However, if you do as they want you're only making things worst - it doesn't matter how much you moan.

Posted by: Observer

In my opinion this rule makes no sense if the federation of the seven emirates really claim to be united and one country. Shouldn't the acomodation allowance be just what the term means, namely allowance for residence of the persons choice in a place of the persons choice, within his means? (Reason given: real estate in AD affected)
What next? Restriction in spending ones' cost of living allowance to the same emirate? (Possible reason: Poor footfall in malls?!!!)
Ban in using travel allowance for travel with an airline belonging to another emirate? (Possible reason: own airline not making much profit?!!!)
Anyway, this law is an eye opener regarding the ground reality of the state of the union!

Posted by: anonymouse

I commuted for 3 1/2 yrs everyday up/down. I was hardly late and found majority of people coming in late with AD license plates. I feel it's up to each company to agree w/ each employee if its an issue, otherwise should be free to choose.
By the way, after 3 1/2 yrs (and about 10yrs of off/on visits on consecutive months), I have moved to AD and it has its benefits. Would I have done it if my contract was going to be tampered with? Yeah but at a little later time.

Posted by: Barry Hinds

Nice comments but misses the point.

What level of time is lost each year by the government due to staff arriving to work late and blaming traffic?

There are plenty of private companies around the world that have living rules (look at Ryanair where staff must live within a defined time distance to the airport) never mind governments.

And, for the record, governments who are paying a housing allowance on top of a monthly salary.

As for your other comment re travel allowance: plenty of companies insist that employees fly via a certain airline. Again, nothing wrong with that. Companies issue fuel cards that can only be used in certain filling gas stations. Companies offer a certain model of company car.

Allowances are that. They are not salary. They are additional benefits that come with a certain degree of control as set by the company offering them.

I am not sure what a cost of living allowance is. I think you mean basic salary which obviusly you are free to spend as you wish.

Posted by: NotReally

You have no indication that you would have been allowed to remain in Dubai. I would assume this policy will apply to employees who are critical enough to "name their price". Your outrage is misplaced here
On the whole issue of forcing people to live somewhere, yes I find it both totally unacceptable and misguided. It is unacceptable in terms of its intrusion on personal life, an argument that here will get little traction. It is misguided because it will make harder/more expensive to recruit. This will also get little traction as most local readers fail to see any added value coming from expats.

Posted by: JEAN LEWIS

Thank you for nothing now then! My family went through a huge TRAUMA because of the FORCED move. We BOUGHT an apartment on the Palm where my PET DOG WAS WELCOME. We had to rent out our beautiful apartment to STRANGERS. We are FORCED to live in a TINY apartment on Al Reem Island that does NOT welcome pets and so my DOG is a PRISONER in the apt. because our realtor lied about it being a pet friendly apt.We spent a fortune on the move and had to sell half our belongings to fit into this little apartment. Some of �our things were damaged and also stolen during the move! WHO is going to COMPENSATE us for all this? Yes, maybe you will say " just another expat whining away" but we are HUMAN BEINGS and we have family and feelings just like everyone else and this whole FORCED MOVE affected A LOT of people not just my family and I but then we are considered the " HIRED HELP" and therefore not entitled to any rights, feelings or considerations! THANKS SO MUCH for NOTHING!!

Posted by: Dave

In which world is staying in the Palm an added 15 minutes driving time? It is anything from 50 minutes to an hour of extra driving.
What many people are missing is that housing allowances is not a "bonus" above your basic salary. What matters is total package, and some companies give a lumpsum while others divide it into basic salary, housing, living allowances etc.
One compaky may offer a total package of 20k for a position, another may have a basic of 12k and housing allowance of 8k

Posted by: Max

Relocating and going through your 'massive' life change for a housing allowance, when forgoing the allowance and remaining on the Palm where it would 15-20 minutes of added driving to Abu Dhabi is a rushed and emotional decision.

Keep the job, live on the Palm or move to somewhere else in Dubai and let go of the allowance.

You live on the Palm Island, beachfront property, and you moan about your dog. First world problems.

Posted by: Barry Hinds

Do not be so ridiculous, you were not forced to do anything.

You did not have to move. For example, why did you not change jobs? Oh, you don't want to do that.

Is it correct that you wanted to keep your allowances and that is the reason why you moved? Presumably, you could have continued to live in Dubai and forgo your housing allowance.

If that is the case forget trying to make this a human (and dogs) rights issue.

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