Expats regard the Middle East as having a positive economic outlook and providing opportunities for younger career-orientated people, according to the latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey.
While the data from this year's report shows that expats across the globe are continuing to feel the economic strain, those in the Middle East remain relatively positive about the state of their local economy. Some 90% of expats in Oman, 89% in Qatar and 83% in Saudi Arabia report a much higher satisfaction level with the state of their current economy than expats across the world with an average of 59%.
This relative shelter from the economic storm offers wider opportunities and benefits for careers and remuneration. Across the Middle Eastern nations, expats are drawn to the countries for job opportunities, with this being the key driver for expats heading to Qatar (77%), Saudi Arabia (76%), Bahrain (74%) and the UAE (65%).
Within these countries expats also benefit financially. Alongside high salaries, the low tax rates on personal income in many Middle Eastern countries have helped expats to secure increased disposable income as a result of their move, in comparison to those living in other regions.
Perhaps as a result, the region is particularly popular with young expats. In Saudi Arabia in particular 46% of expats heading to the region are in the young working age of 18 to 34 years with just 8% aged over 55. The ages of expats heading to the region are in stark contrast to that of expats worldwide, where 32% of expats are aged 18 to 34 and 22% are over 55.
However, despite the strong performance of many of the Middle Eastern countries in the Expat Explorer Economics league tables this year, a high proportion of expats in the region are looking to leave their current country.
Some 34% of expats in Saudi Arabia, 30% in Qatar and 29% in Oman are actively looking to leave their current country for either another posting or to return to their home country. This is a much higher proportion than the global average of 13%.
But this high proportion of expats looking to leave is not a result of unfavourable conditions. Expats in these Middle Eastern countries are more likely than average to believe their country is getting better as a place for expats to live and work, and views of the current economic and political outlook remain positive in almost all Middle Eastern countries in comparison to global averages.
Instead, it seems Middle Eastern based expats retain a much stronger affiliation with their home country than expats in general, which may suggest these expats have always intended to move to the Middle East for a set period of time, before returning to their home country or moving to another expat posting.
This trend is most pronounced in Saudi Arabia where 75% of expats have retained a very strong connection to their home country, but is also replicated across other Middle Eastern nations such as Bahrain and Kuwait at 71%, Oman at 65% and Qatar at 60%.
As a result, the key drivers behind expats looking to leave the region are in fact changing family needs or simply wanting a change. That said, rising living costs are increasingly important for expats in the region too.