Expat Exodus: Are expats really leaving the UAE in droves?

The UAE saw an ‘expat exodus’ over summer – at least that’s according to some shipping companies and news reports.

Some moving firms reported a spike in foreigners leaving the country over the hotter months, reports Ben Flanagan, as the era or lower oil prices and a slowdown in recruitment bites. But others say they have also seen an uptick in new arrivals in the UAE.

Craig Reilly, the chief executive of Dubai Arabian Shipping Agency (DASA), said that he had seen more expats moving this year.

“The UAE is a transient country so there is always a cycle of repatriation, that being said yes this year we have seen a higher number of moves out of the UAE than in previous years,” he told Benchmark.

“This can be for a large number of reasons: the oil industry trimming down, cuts in governments spending and the ever-growing costs of living and working here. The UAE is no longer a hardship post and packages reflect that so families are finding it harder to sustain a life here.”

Craig Reilly - DASA.JPG

A report last month in the 7DAYS daily quoted Curt Clements, chief executive of Move One, saying his company has seen “an unusually high amount of expats leaving the UAE and the region in comparison to past years”. He went on to say that three to four times more expats than normal were leaving the UAE over summer, with the top 10 movers packing the  belongings of between 100 and 150 families per day during June.

But Mike Arnold, managing director for the Middle East at Santa Fe Relocation Services, based in Dubai, said that he had not seen evidence of an expat exodus himself – but said he has noticed fewer new expats arriving in the UAE.

“I don’t think we’ve seen a tremendous difference in outbound volume in 2016 versus 2015. If such an ‘exodus’ exists, it is not having a significant effect on the number of outbound household goods shipments,” Mr Arnold told Benchmark.

“What is happening however is a major reduction in number of inbound shipments or new expats arriving into UAE and this is primarily a result of the current business environment.

“Companies have been on a limited hiring ‘freeze’ awaiting to see what will happen by 2017.”

But other moving firms said they have noticed an increase in both inbound and outbound shipments. “If exports have gone up, then imports have also gone up,” said UAE-based Chirantan Joshi, chief executive of E-Movers.