Why are so many Brits abandoning the City for Dubai?

By Gareth El Mettouri on 7th August 2023

An estimated 240,000 Brits currently live in the UAE, and after a hiatus caused by the pandemic, new arrivals are now coming in droves. According to data pulled from Google Trends, the number of searches for ‘jobs in Dubai for British citizens’ has increased by 60 per cent over the past three months, suggesting that this trend is unlikely to stop any time soon.

While there is interest from candidates across the UK, we are talking to a disproportionate number of people looking to leave London and start fresh in Dubai. So, why are employees so keen to pack up and leave the City?

Seeking a better quality of life

With the Bank of England’s interest rate rises doing very little to curb high inflation in the UK, the cost of living in London is becoming unmanageable for many people. From food bills to energy costs, employees’ disposable income is shrinking each month, leaving people keen to escape what feels like a worsening economic situation in the UK.

The cost of living in the UAE is rising – but much more slowly than in the UK – and there are other elements that make it a much more favourable place to live financially. Salaries are generally higher than in the UK, there is no income tax levied on individuals, and employers provide allowances to cover costs associated with relocating, accommodation, healthcare, schooling and even return travel to the UK. As a result, employees living and working in Dubai have more disposable income available, allowing them to save money while still enjoying everything that the city has to offer.

Bearing in mind that London is no longer the 24/7 city it once was – with many restaurants, bars and event spaces still closing much earlier than they did before the pandemic and a never-ending stream of train and tube strikes – the exclusive, luxury lifestyle offered by Dubai is very appealing.

There are endless opportunities for employees to have fun and enjoy their free time in Dubai. From shopping and fine dining, to art and architecture – and not to mention the year-round sunshine – the city is world-class, but without many of the drawbacks those living and working in London are currently experiencing.

Related: Five reasons to move to Dubai

Better opportunities for career progression

The UAE Government is investing heavily in bringing financial services and technology firms to the country as part of its ambitions to grow double the economy in the next 10 years. As companies relocate or establish themselves in the area, there are more jobs available with exciting, growing companies that offer ambitious workers incredible opportunities.

Skilled workers are able to secure big promotions that further their careers when they move to the UAE – and if they sign on with a company that is investing in growth, they will likely be able to carve out new opportunities to accelerate their own career progression.

This is where many companies in the UK could miss out and lose some of their best talent. Company structures can sometimes be rigid, and not all prioritise professional development opportunities, which could leave ambitious up-and-comers feeling frustrated.

In a global society, employers need to consider what competitors are offering abroad as well as in the UK, and make sure they keep up. Ensuring that employees have a clear career path and the support to meet their targets could keep them in the ranks, but the chance for faster progression in the UAE may lure some talent away.

A cultural melting pot delivering new experiences

While London is one of the best, most diverse cities in the world, but City businesses cannot keep up with the cultural melting pot in the UAE. With one of the highest foreign-born populations in the world, the culture helps everyone feel at home – and it is incredibly attractive to workers who want to engage with new cultures and work in diverse offices.

For those who have ambitions to work abroad, the UAE offers the best of both worlds: a huge community of UK expats and English-speaking workplaces, combined with cultural diversity that makes the lifestyle, cuisine and culture unique and worth exploring.

So, how do you retain talent?

At a time when so many Brits are looking to find fresh opportunities elsewhere, employers need to make sure they are at the top of their game when it comes to pay and promotion, and workplace culture. There are so many reasons to move away that UK employers – particularly those with a strong reliance on tech and finance personnel – need to pull out all the stops.


Interested in relocating to Dubai? Find out more from one of our colleagues based in the UAE. If you are an employer looking for advice on how to attract and retain the best talent on the market, contact our UK team.

More From the Blog...