The UAE has been ranked the 15th top expat destination globally, below other GCC countries such as Bahrain, Oman and Qatar, according to HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer 2014 survey.
The survey, which spoke to 9,300 respondents from over 100 countries, ranked Bahrain fifth, Qatar 13th and Oman 14th worldwide for expatriates.
While the UAE boasts better job prospects and higher salaries, expats face significant challenges due to the rising cost of living and expenses related to raising children, the report found.
Up to 71 per cent of the respondents said that they would earn more in the UAE than in their home country, compared to the global average of 53 per cent, with 58 per cent associating the UAE with high salaries, above the global average of 40 per cent.
While 60 per cent of expats moved to the UAE because of increasing job opportunities, 58 per cent said they have more disposable income here than their home countries.
However, six out of 10 expats stated that they would consider moving away from the UAE because it is too expensive, higher than the global average of 32 per cent.
Rising rents pose the biggest threat to the financial well-being of expats in the UAE, according to 58 per cent of the respondents.
With inflation in the country rising to its highest level in five years this April, driven primarily by rising housing and food costs, 75 per cent of expats said that they spend more on accommodation and 62 per cent spend more on groceries, the report said.
This is expected to rise further, as inflation in the UAE is predicted to reach 2.2 per cent by the end of the year, and hit 2.5 per cent in 2015, according to the IMF.
Another concern for UAE-based expats is the growing cost of childcare; 85 per cent said that the overall cost of bringing up a child is higher than their home countries, 77 per cent stated that they pay more for childcare than they did previously, with 86 per cent specifically spending more on education than they did previously.
Andy Ripley, head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, UAE, HSBC said: “The high cost of living is an understandable source of concern, and we see that this is being compounded by 58 per cent of expats stating that their finances have become more complex since they moved.
“This is especially true for high earners who face difficulties in managing their finances across multiple countries and in various currencies. While there certainly are aspects that are out of people’s control, such as the cost of utilities or household goods, you can cut back your expenses in other areas through better financial planning.
“With better cars, higher quality accommodation and domestic help being most often cited as some of the benefits of living in the UAE, people here are often tempted to spend beyond their means. As a result, expats have to develop a better balance in order to benefit from the great salaries and career prospects, while coping with the high cost of living.”
The report also found that expats view their stay in the UAE as transitory, with the majority likely to consider relocating for retirement. Only 13 per cent keep most of their retirement provisions in the UAE, lower than the global average of 41 per cent, with 53 per cent of UAE respondents keeping these savings in their home countries.
“As expats tend to view their stay in the UAE as a short-term venture, we see that many put off saving for this stage of life,” said Ripley.
“Instead they should be looking to take advantage of the financial benefits offered by a career in the UAE in order to start building a retirement pot early. Consequently, people need to also consider portability of their investments and ensure their savings are not hindered by relocation.”
The global survey, in its seventh year, ranked Switzerland, Singapore and China as the top three destinations for expats. Germany, Bahrain, New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan, India and Hong Kong rounded up the top 10.