The United Arab Emirates (UAE) continues to emerge as a preferred destination where foreign nationals would like to work, with the country’s global attractiveness rising six places from number 19 in 2018 to number 13 in 2020, according to a new study of approximately 209,000 people in 190 countries by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bayt.com. The study illustrates how the ongoing pandemic has significantly impacted people’s attitudes toward working abroad and overseas, reducing their interest generally and attracting them to countries that have contained COVID-19 more effectively.
The joint report titled, ‘Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual,’ elaborates on the recent findings, which are based on BCG and Bayt.com’s worker mobility and worker preferences. The report explains the reasons behind the UAE’s continuous surge in attractiveness internationally and shows why cities, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are held in such high esteem.
“The UAE’s status as being less impacted by the pandemic than other countries is a key factor behind its heightened appeal on the world stage, with several notable cities now considered much less appealing compared to two years ago,” said Dr. Christopher Daniel, Managing Director and Partner, BCG Middle East. “Dubai and Abu Dhabi are among the latest success stories in the global city ranking, solidifying their improved positions on the back of the UAE proving to be a regional safe haven in a year of crisis.”
Respondents were equally forthcoming about the reasons behind Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s growing appeal. For Dubai – which rose from number six in 2018 to number three in 2020 – respondents cited renewed Expo 2021 potential and the swift restart and support of the private sector during recent times as particular attraction points. With regards to Abu Dhabi, which climbed the rankings from 51 in 2014, 14 in 2018, to fifth place last year, sustained ranking improvement has been attributed to the government’s commitment to overhaul its processes, the proximity of people to leadership, high government investment, and a new economic development strategy.
“Besides being impressive, the rise of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the UAE in the global rankings is a testament to the importance of pandemic response and resurgence”, continued Dr. Christopher Daniel.
According to the study, approximately 50 percent of people globally are currently willing to move abroad for professional purposes, down from 64 percent and 57 percent in 2014 and 2018, respectively. The lower willingness to relocate was expressed by respondents in nearly every country worldwide, reaffirming that this attitude transcends global communities.
90 per cent of the UAE’s survey participants were expats with an average age of 38, broadly reflecting the composition of the country’s population. “Given that the national workforce is heavily comprised of foreign workers, the country attracts a highly mobile workforce and 94 percent of UAE workers were also willing to work abroad in 2020 compared to 50 percent globally.”, explained Dr. Christopher Daniel.
While there is now less willingness to move to a foreign country globally, respondents demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm to stay home while working for a foreign employer, with 57 per cent indicating this is something they would be willing to do.
“The job market has witnessed many changes over the past few months. The COVID-19 pandemic that is being battled across the globe has redefined major operations and processes, placing companies in every industry under pressure to make the transition to virtual workplaces. As such, the vast majority of professionals and businesses have adopted remote working, enabling them to remain competitive and ensure continuity,” said Ola Haddad, Director of Human Resources at Bayt.com.
However, fewer Emirati nationals – 50 percent – said they would move abroad to work, with strong community links and recent emergence of this model in the UAE potential reasons behind this statistic.
“Restrictive immigration policies have already weakened the mobility trend,” said Rainer Strack, BCG Senior Partner and one of the authors of the study. “COVID-19 is a new variable that is making people cautious about considering international relocation. And with the rise of remote working, many may feel that they can further their careers virtually, without needing to move at all.”
The report also describes the challenges companies face in offering remote international employment – including cultural integration and the securing of visas – and highlights some early solutions. Furthermore, the data gathered for Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual provides insights into worker attitudes by gender, age, education level, digital skillsets, and job hierarchy positions.