Dubai: Indian and Pakistani expats make up more than a third (37 per cent) of the population of three emirates — Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman according to the latest 2014 statistics provided by Euromonitor International, a market intelligence company.
The five most populous nationalities in the three emirates, in the same order, are: Indian (25 per cent), Pakistani (12 per cent), Emirati (9 per cent), Bangladeshi (7 per cent), and Filipino (5 per cent).
Nikola Kosutic, a research manager at Euromonitor International, attributes the high number of Indian and Pakistani expatriates to deep political, cultural, and economic ties between the UAE and both India and Pakistan, apart from other economic factors.
“Ease of trade and job opportunities especially for low-paid jobs, has been a major factor facilitating movement of people from India and Pakistan to the UAE.
“This is coupled with [geographical] proximity and the fact that many Pakistanis and Indians have someone living in the UAE who can help them with the transition,” explained Kosutic.
He pointed out that the percentage of English-speaking people in both India and Pakistan is high, and the fact of English being the “‘de facto’ official language in UAE,” only eases the transition. Another contributing factor is the ease of sending money back home to their families, which is “cheap and convenient,” he said.
With Dubai’s fast-growing economy and attractive job opportunities, the number of expats is only estimated to grow.
Statistics from Euromonitor show the total population of the three emirates was 5.2 million in 2014 and is expected to grow by 2.2 per cent to 5.3 million in 2015.
Preliminary data provided by the Dubai Statistics Centre (DSC) also estimates Dubai’s population to grow by 5 per cent from 2.3 in 2014 to 2.4 million in 2015.
Despite the slight rise in cost of living in the UAE, the number of expats coming into the country is not expected to decline due to several social and economic factors, according to experts.
Kosutic explained that while the highest proportion of a person’s income goes to rent payments, rent prices in the first quarter of 2015 have been steady and are expected to remain the same or slightly decline over the next year.
Another reason behind the estimated rise in the expat population is the increasing number of affordable accommodation expected to become available within the next few years, he said.
“People will have the option to live in luxury or affordable accommodation in Dubai, whereas historically many have chosen to work in Dubai but live in other emirates with cheaper accommodation,” said Kosutic.
Gurdish Bassi, project director at GRMC, advisory services told Gulf News that much of the recent population growth over last two years can be attributed to increases in blue collar workforce driven by construction activity as a result of real estate market recovery and infrastructure development related to Expo 2020. “To a smaller extent there has also been growth in white collar employment as a result of Dubai’s economy being more buoyant than before,” he said.
With its world class infrastructure along with multicultural and tolerant environment, Dubai offers very high quality of life, which is a key driver that attracts a number of Western professionals and their families to the city, highlighted Bassi.
However, employment is a stronger driver for relocation to Dubai for middle-lower level white and blue collar workers predominantly arriving from developing countries and some of the European nations severely affected by economic crisis, he added.
Commenting on the cost of living in association with reduction in fuel subsidies, Kosutic said he believes slight increments are not expected to have a major impact on attracting expats to reside in Dubai, and will only result in slight changes in consumer behaviour and lifestyle.
An important factor to remember is the current exchange rate that remains in favour of people who live here, pointed out Kosutic. “With the dollar expected to keep strengthening, so will the dirham, which is an advantage for people who send money back to their home countries and calculate the amount in their home currency,” he said.
While Dubai remains the UAE’s business and tourist hub, many “metropolitan residents” continue to work in Dubai, but reside in Sharjah and Ajman, resulting in the three emirates being home to 60 per cent of the UAE’s population, said Kosutic.