The main attraction of the Gulf is the tax-free environment and good standard of life, but the recent spiralling cost of living leaves expatriates with bare minimum in savings and a drastic change in their hitherto easy lifestyles, writes Vimala Vasan
ABU DHABI: The alarming rise in cost of living coupled with skyrocketing rents is compelling expatriates here to explore all avenues to cut down expenses, with many taking the extreme step of sending their families back home or quitting their jobs to go home for good.
The hefty hike in rents, going up in some cases to over fifty per cent, and a phenomenal upswing in prices of consumer goods, some of which have been hiked by over 100 per cent since the middle of last year, have left many expatriates even in the upper and middle income level categories wondering if their move to the Gulf has been a worthwhile proposition.
According to one expatriate, who has been recently forced to share his flat with another family due to a big jump in rents, aspiring job seekers to the Gulf should obtain more information about the cost factor of living here, weigh the pros and cons and only then make the move.
It is not just the huge expenses burning holes in pockets that is causing concern here.
The sudden lifestyle changes and compromises that the expatriates are compelled to make with some being forced to send their families back home and take up accommodation in bachelor quarters, coupled with job security concerns have resulted in increased levels of stress and related medical problems.
A recent poll conducted in Dubai by the local daily Gulf News revealed that 67 per cent of the respondents said the high cost of living was the main cause for increased mental stress.
Twenty three per cent blamed work pressure and ten per cent blamed traffic congestion as the cause of stress. The paper in another report, referred to the ingenious methods that expatriates are adopting following the steep hike in rents. Many expatriate bachelors with driving licences had resorted to spending the night in their cars and seek washroom and store facilities for a small rental, as they could not afford the huge rents, the report said.
With salaries remaining stagnant for many years, particularly in the private sector, a large number of expatriates are seriously coming to terms with the possibility that their stay in the Gulf may not be as long as earlier planned. What is in store for them if they opt to wind up, or how their families will cope on their own if they send them back are major sources of concern now.
Indian community schools in the country are in fact reporting an increase in the number of TC applications for their students. Tuition and transport fees have been hiked by some schools adding to the monetary worries of parents. Moosa, Principal, Indian Islahi School told The Hindu that there had been an increase in the number of TC applications. "In most of the cases the reason offered is that it is too expensive to continue here," he said.
The Indian expatriate community in the UAE is hoping that the new Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi will take concerted action on a host of pressing issues pertaining to Gulf NRIs. His assurances to the media following his assumption in office have raised hopes that NRI problems, particularly those related to expatriate blue collar labour and women, as also the high airline fares will be addressed at the earliest.