Economic reality pricks expat bubble
Forget the doom and gloom across the financial markets, expatriate residents in the UAE and Bahrain are convinced that businesses across the region will hold steady and pull through in 2009, according to a survey by Zurich International Life (ZIL), which reveals that over 50 per cent of those questioned are still optimistic about their financial futures this year.
Job security, according to the ZIL survey “seems to be a concern”, with an average 35 per cent experiencing increased pressures at work. Three out of four respondents indicated that they will ‘sit out’ the economic downturn. Only one in four not confident about their future.
Carlos Sabugueiro, Chief Executive Officer of ZIL Middle East and Africa, said, “The relative despondency across the world comes as no surprise given recent events. But expats working in the Gulf have a stoical attitude and whilst the survey indicates that they are spending less on their lifestyles, they still have a healthy appetite to plan for the future. This shows confidence in the region, which is supported by the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report pointing to expected GDP growth of 3.9 per cent for 2009 in the Middle East.”
While expats did express some concerns over the possibility of redundancies, more are apparently concerned with day-to-day issues such as the cost of living. 80 per cent of the UAE sample said they were worried about their increasing outgoings, with 83 per cent being concerned about mortgage and loan repayments, and 69 per cent about not being able to save enough.
The report also reveals differences between expats in Bahrain and those in the UAE. Confidence is generally higher in Bahrain, with 62 per cent saying that their lifestyles had not been directly affected by the economic downturn, whereas 59 per cent of those in the UAE said it had.
Carlos Sabugueiro said: “The jitters have set in about job security, practical issues and saving. Also, more people are concerned about getting professional financial advice, with around a fifth of expats now turning to professional sources. Equally, an overwhelming 90 per cent rate ’trust’ as the most important priority in the long-term security of their investment planning. With a successful history spanning over 136 years, Zurich clearly offers existing and prospective investors great confidence.”
Expats also gave a positive answer when asked about their plans for retirement; 55 per cent of those in the UAE said they remain confident of being able to retire at their ideal age, compared to 64 per cent in Bahrain.