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High cost of living drives gradual exodus
KUWAIT CITY, Aug 1: The expatriates residing in the Gulf states are slowly returning to their countries voluntarily due to the very high cost of living, which made the GCC countries less attractive to work in, especially since most GCC governments distribute in cash and in-kind subsidies for their citizens only, reports Al-Qabas daily. A report by the US Agency for the Middle East News ‘themedialine’ stated that about 21 million expatriates work in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, while there are no official statistics for expatriates in the UAE, where citizens constitute about 20% of the total population and 11% of the workforce.
The report stressed that the remittances of expatriates in 2021 were more than $127 billion, compared to $116 billion in 2020, pointing out that last year witnessed the first increase in remittances from the region after its decline between 2017 and 2020, noting that four countries witnessed an increase in remittances from the expatriates last year – namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, while it declined in Bahrain and Oman.
The report touched on the increase in expenses, fees, and taxes imposed on expatriates in countries in the region, especially in Saudi Arabia, as the expatriate must pay 4,500 riyals per month for each member of his family, in addition to the high electricity and water bills. Bahrain also lifted subsidies on meat and gave its citizens a cash allowance, in addition to raising the price of gasoline by 200%, in addition to significantly raising energy prices for expatriates and imposing mandatory health insurance in the Kingdom.
The report said, “Oman recently adopted the principle of job localization for more than 200 jobs in the private sector, and the UAE imposed fees on expatriates amid a significant rise in the cost of living in the country, as the state allocates subsidies to citizens only. In turn, Kuwait allocates financial subsidies to citizens only to purchase basic commodities in cooperative societies, as expatriates are not allowed to purchase them at low prices like a citizen. In Qatar, expatriates earn much lower wages than nationals in most jobs.
The report indicated that low-wage expatriates were not greatly affected by the imposition of fees and taxes by the Gulf states, but the most affected group is the middle-income group, such as school teachers, engineers, and administrative staff, who receive salaries ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 dollars per month, adding many of these have to send their families to their countries and share housing and transportation with others, while other employees leave their jobs in search of work in other countries.