Dubai: Expatriates in the UAE are among the highest paid in the world and they’re taking home more money than their peers in top international destinations like Australia or Japan.

According to the latest Expat Explorer Survey by HSBC, which polled 22,318 respondents from 163 countries, the average expat salary in the UAE is the sixth highest in the world, just behind Switzerland, USA, Hong Kong, China and Singapore.

Among the nearly 1,000 respondents surveyed in the UAE, the annual paycheque is pegged at more than $155,000 or roughly over Dh40,000 monthly.

The study also found that moving abroad has resulted in higher take-home pay, with a fifth of the expatriates in the UAE saying that their incomes have at least doubled since making the shift to the UAE.

Bigger salaries, along with career growth and greater quality of life, are among the top considerations for expatriates when making the decision to move to another country.

The UAE, particularly Dubai, has been considered one of the best destinations for expatriates due to its zero income taxation, good quality of life and high compensation packages. In the latest Quality of Living Survey by Mercer, Dubai was ranked the best city for expats in the Middle East and Africa.

Overall, HSBC's survey showed that expats in Switzerland are the biggest earners, with an average annual salary of $202,865.

Expatriates in the United States are the second-biggest earners at $185,119, with Hong Kong workers taking the third spot at $178,706. Expatriates in China, which enjoys a booming economy, also reported that their average salaries jumped from $134,093 in 2016 to $172,678 this year.

Average expat salaries

Switzerland: $202,865
USA: $185,119
Hong Kong: $178,706
China: $172,678
Singapore: $162,172
UAE*: $155,039
India: $131,759
Indonesia: $127,362
Japan: $127,362
Australia: $125,803

Note: HSBC says figure for UAE is based on responses from 859 survey participants across all demographics in UAE.

UAE fourth best country for economics

The survey, which is now on its 11th year, ranks countries based on several factors and in the “economics” category, the UAE climbed one place from last year to rank fourth best country globally.

This means that the UAE is now the fourth best destination to move to for those whose main reason for working abroad is to earn more money. 

The economics table was based on expats’ feedback on disposable income, wage growth, savings, economic confidence, entrepreneurship, politics, career progression, working life and job security.

According the survey results, the majority (67 per cent) of UAE expats now enjoy more disposable income, thanks to higher earnings and the tax-free environment.

More expats (85 per cent) are also able to build up their savings and pay off their debt. However, 93 per cent are not fully aware of or have explored their financial options, according to Marwan Hadi, head of retail banking and wealth management at HSBC UAE.

“We are seeing an interesting dichotomy among UAE expats,” Hadi said.

When asked what their priorities are, 48 per cent cited buying property and 53 per cent chose saving for retirement. About 17 per cent also own a property in the UAE, but HSBC noted that a typical expat keeps only a fifth of their wealth in the country.

“Traditionally, expats have channeled most of their investments outside the UAE often to their home country. However, the recent announcement by the UAE government to afford special residency-visa privileges for expat retirees has certainly paved the way for more to consider their long-term plans in the UAE. Already two-thirds (66 per cent) live here for more than five years, and as expat-friendly reforms come forth, we might see more expats settling their roots down here,” said Hadi.