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Thu 11 Aug 2011 12:01 PM

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Migrant workers pick Saudi Arabia over UAE

Gulf is top pick for Asian expats but less popular with westerners, shows poll

Migrant workers pick Saudi Arabia over UAE
FOREIGN FIRMS: The bill will allow 100 percent foreign ownership in some sectors. (Getty Images)

Migrant workers mulling a move to the GCC would choose to live in Saudi Arabia over neighbouring Gulf state the UAE, a report published Wednesday said.

A report by Abu Dhabi Gallup said 52 percent of foreign workers hoping to live in the Gulf would choose to live in Saudi Arabia, compared to 35 percent who favoured the UAE.

The report drew from a survey of 347,713 people in 148 countries, interviewed between 2007 and 2009. About 75,000 said they would like to move to another country.

Of those eyeing a move to the Gulf, the vast majority came from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, with the region’s popularity plummeting among European and American respondents.

Very few Europeans said they would move to the Gulf, though they represent 29 percent of those who would like to move to Australia. Similarly, less than one percent of migrants from American named a Gulf country as their preferred destination. More than 21 percent of respondents, however, said they would move to Japan while 18 percent would prefer a move back to the US.

The GCC appealed most to relatively less-educated potential migrants, Gallup said, with just two percent of those hoping to move to Saudi boasting four years of education beyond high school or a college degree.

Six percent of those hoping to move to the UAE had a college degree or four years of education past high school, the report said.

Highly-educated migrants favoured a move to Switzerland, Australia and Canada, whose high-income and clear naturalisation policies appealed to foreign workers.

“The countries of origin of potential migrants interested in moving permanently to Saudi Arabia and the UAE are strikingly different from the home nations of those wishing to move to other high-income countries worldwide,” analysts wrote.  

“The data clearly highlight that a small portion of those who want to migrate to the GCC are highly educated or have extensive training.”

Of those who would like to migrate to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, just 16 and 15 percent respectively describe themselves as “professional workers”, the report said, suggesting highly-education migrants may be deterred by what is perceived as the Gulf’s favouring of nationals. “Leaders must ensure that meritocracy – not national identity – is the most important qualification employers take into account,” to avoid losing talent to more merit-based environments, analysts said.

Regional political turmoil is also expected to impact the decisions of Arab migrants that would traditionally look to the Gulf states for employment, particularly those from Egypt and Tunisia.

Should job markets in these two countries stabilise under new leadership, the number of citizens prepared to move to the GCC will likely decline, removing a key labour market for the Gulf.

“If economies in MENA countries undergoing democratic transitions stabilize and produce more jobs, the GCC may not be able to count on a steady stream of skilled Arabic-speaking migrant workers,” the report noted.

A Gallup poll released this month conducted after the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak found 88 percent of Egyptians said they intended to remain in the country.

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ik 9 years ago

Its true - Dubai is no longer the Golden Goose that lays golden eggs, anymore.

Billy 9 years ago

This is a very worrying trend for the UAE. The government needs to take this very seriously indeed and start to look at strategies for attracting more skilled and professional workers. I would suggest they start by establishing exactly what would attract these people to the UAE in the first place - the report gives a good indication when it highlights such issues as favouring nationals over expat workers, and clear, transparent, coherent and consistent policies - but there have also been too many petty issues regarding minor law infringements by unwary overseas visitors.

TMZ 9 years ago

One of the greatest advantage for expats to migrates Saudi Arabia is accommodation. Hope there are no any greedy real estates owners and sublet hungers.

Ali 9 years ago

I dont think anyone has actually read the report. Unskilled blue collar workers chose the Saudi Arabia over UAE, in fact only 2% of those who "prefer" Saudi Arabia as a place to work in hold college degrees. So I dont think skilled workers are all favoring Saudi Arabia over UAE. For all its problems, the UAE s still better, in most cases, than Saudi Arabia.

Telcoguy 9 years ago

It is not necessarily a bad thing for the UAE, and I personally do not think this is an accident. First most UAE businesses seem to depend more on low or medium skilled workers, this was for sure fueled by construction but I think it is safe to say that if you have a Master/PhD in STEM you better go to Singapore, US or Canada as the opportunities are much better.

Telcoguy 9 years ago

the second and third points were probably more interesting :)

Ed 9 years ago

A decline in skilled workers wanting to move to this region is not a good sign. I'm European and we enjoy the city (Dubai) and very thankful for what it has given us over the years. The authorities are genuinely trying to make this city a better place by providing superb services, facilities, benefitting all the people here. At the same time, some of fundamental importance slipping away: the sense of mid-term stability for expats.

Fahd 9 years ago

Don't expect the UAE to open its doors to immigration. After all, the UAE has learnt a great lesson from the anarchy in UK and other immigration problems in Italy, Spain, practically all over Europe where the immigrants still do not wish to integrate with the natives and culture of the respective European country.

Abdul Quddus 9 years ago

I endore Fahd's comment, one of the wisest decision of the Arabian GCC is NEVER to become an immigration destination. By now our expatriate guests are convinced that this region will NEVER become the dumping backyard of other countries or the surrogate mother of any foreigner.

muhammad 9 years ago

Instead of expounding theories in flowery language , why not just state the facts. Namely that you do not want to share your wealth with other people. If there was no oil in the region I doubt you would be so sensitive about people coming to the GCC. I recall that during the pre oil days most people were welcome into the region as it meant bringing business opportunities and other amenities that were lacking here. Please stop the pretence- its all about money. There are plenty of foreigners who have been living in the GCC for generations because they can pay their way.