The opportunity to make more money and lead a better lifestyle is driving some UAE residents to take up part-time work without leaving their full-time jobs. Others undertake part-time gigs to pursue a hobby or passion as well as to save extra cash for children’s education or retirement.
With the UAE’s inflation declining by 1.6 per cent year on year during the fourth quarter of 2019 (as per Central Bank data), UAE residents have more purchasing power today. However, this was in stark contrast to 2015 and 2016 where the high cost of living forced several expatriates, especially Generation Z, to work part time to supplement their income. Used to having some extra cash in their pockets over and above their regular salaries, they continue to pursue part-time assignments today to lead a better quality of life, fund their travel expenses and miscellaneous entertainment charges.
Dip in inflation in the UAE in Q4 2019
Although Dubai and Abu Dhabi were named the most expensive cities for expatriates to live in the GCC, according to Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living survey, the actual cost of living - or inflation – in these cities declined in 2019 owing to weaker housing rents and fuel prices. Mercer statistics cite a 2.09 per cent deflation between April 2018 and 2019.
Moreover, the majority of Dubai’s private schools were only allowed to raise fees by 2 per cent in the 2019-2020 academic year. However, most schools opted to freeze fees or offer discounts to make it affordable for parents. Schools in Abu Dhabi, too, only increased fees marginally.
Housing rents, which take a big chunk out of expats’ monthly earnings, have also reported a decline in the UAE. Average apartment rents in Dubai dropped by 13.4 per cent year-on-year in the last quarter of 2019, while villas/townhouses registered a 9 per cent fall, according to property consultancy Cavendish Maxwell.
However, salaries in the UAE remained stagnant in 2019. According to Hays 2020 GCC Salary and Employment Report, 54 per cent of GCC working professionals’ salaries remained the same in 2019 compared to 2018.
Of GCC employees' salary remained unchanged in 2019
Of the 41 per cent that received a pay increase in 2019, the survey found that the most common was an uplift of only up to 5 per cent, slightly down on the 5-10 per cent increase reported the year before.
Extra money needed
Although the cost of living has reduced in the UAE, with salaries remaining stagnant, big spenders are resorting to doing part-time work to continue to fund their lifestyles. Employers are also increasingly hiring more part-time workers and less full-time staffers to optimally manage their operational expenses.
Maryam Danagege, a Dubai resident for eight years, has always taken on part-time jobs to supplement her income. She currently works full time as a public relations executive but also takes on translation assignments on the side. However, the demanding nature of her current job does not permit her to take on more part-time gigs.
“I was a sales executive back in the day and worked as an usher part time. We also had an all-girl dance group to perform at events to raise some extra cash. Apart from that, I worked as a telemarketer for a real estate firm and part time, I promoted new F and B venues,” recalled Danagege.
Extra cash to pay bills
She explained that doing part-time gigs helps her cope with the rise in prices. “The extra cash coming in is helpful to offset all those extra toll gates I pass, pay for my phone bills and weekly grocery shopping.”
However, it is physically and mentally strenuous to balance two jobs simultaneously.
“After a long day at work, my brain can’t shut down. I have to try and deliver for my part-time clients as well, which is both mentally and physically draining,” shared Danagege.
Gulf News also spoke to a Dubai resident who works full-time as a project engineer in the construction industry and takes on part-time roles as a hostess.
“I do it to earn some extra cash as it is very expensive. Since the pay for a hostess is very low, it does not really help offset the rising cost of living,” the expatriate, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
I do it to earn some extra cash as it is very expensive. Since the pay for a hostess is very low, it does not really help offset the cost of living
She added that working part-time is exhausting, especially when working on weekends rather than taking rest. She admitted to occasionally even taking annual leave to work as a hostess at events.
Wages in the UAE have not been rising and a majority of people struggle to meet all their household expenses. They are running out of spare cash. Up to 40 per cent of employees across the UAE have not had a salary increase for two years, disclosed a study by Tiger Recruitment in December 2019. The research also found that 71 per cent of survey respondents have not been rewarded a bonus in the last 12 months.
This could be why some residents are opting to take up part-time work to supplement their income. Officially, you can do other work if you have a no-objection letter from your company. You will also need a work permit from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation for the intended part-time work.
Cost of a freelance visa in the UAE
The government has introduced e-commerce and freelancer visas to regulate online stores, influencers and part-time workers. However, costing a minimum of around Dh6,000, they are still not cheap.
Part-time work helps savings
“Part-time work is a great way to boost your income and increase your overall savings rate. If you have useful skills from your career, you can apply that to other areas. For example, teachers can tutor in the evenings. Or if you have a passion outside work, you can use it to set up an online store, create an online course or teach people in person. You may find that ultimately this takes over as your main source of income. However, be careful not to let your actual job suffer,” said Steve Cronin, founder of DeadSimpleSaving.com, which helps expats to take control of their finances.
Pursuing passion on the side
Naomi D’Souza, who works full time as an experience strategy manager at Publicis Sapient, pursues her passion of digital content creation part time. The food and lifestyle influencer admits that although blogging does supplement her main income, that is never the main motive. She is driven to work part time by her love for social media.
“Being an influencer does come with a paycheck, freebies and invites, which help towards the cost of living here. But the downside is, having two lives makes you more stressed, which in turn can take a toll on you, drastically reduce your free time and so on. That’s why balance is extremely important. Additionally, my main job is tech, the other part is more of pursuing a passion. I can’t really make a living off the latter. I just take it as compensation for what I do,” she told Gulf News.
The health cost of working double jobs
Elaborating on how hard it is to balance two jobs, D’Souza said it can take a toll on one’s health, mental wellbeing and social life if one does not find the right balance. “Having supportive friends and family who watch out for you and let you know when you have to take a step back helps,” she pointed out.
Doing two jobs could lead to overworking, which could compromise your mind and body health. For instance, long working hours may leave you sleep deprived if you sleep for less than seven hours a day, gives you little time to engage in recreational activities, spend less quality time with your family and friends and compromise on exercise and fitness activities. You may, instead, engage in passive stress relief like smoking, drinking or eating unhealthy food.
Medical implications of overworking
“Long-term chronic stress results in burnout and possible depression and anxiety. Stress and burnout are linked to a whole host of physical diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep problems, skin problems and sexual dysfunction, to name a few,” explained Dr. Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director, Lighthouse Arabia.
In order to ease the mental and physical strain that comes from working multiple jobs, the doctor suggested that one considers changing skill sets, job or lifestyle.
“Make time to learn new skills, update your CV and see if you can apply for higher paying roles, or try to shift your lifestyle so you can live within your means provided by one job,” Dr. Afridi added.
While working part time, it’s also important to guard your sleep, exercise and block off time for your relationships as you do for work meetings.
“Relationships are not just important for having a happy life, but they also mitigate and moderate the negative effects of stress. So, make time and invest in your relationships,” the doctor suggested.