Study says female expats in UAE more reliable source of remittances

That was the message yesterday from a pair of UAE economists who unveiled a new study into how the earnings of foreign female workers in the GCC countries are having an impact on the region and beyond. The study, sponsored by money transfer firm Western Union, found that many women are overcoming poor working conditions and isolation from their families to transform the fortunes of children – and in many cases parents – they left thousands of miles away. Professor of economics Ismail Hakki Genc and assistant professor of economics George Naufal, both of the American University in Sharjah, said that the growth of the UAE economy in the last decade had created a service sector jobs more suited to women than the traditional tide of male migrants. “It used to be men who left home, nowadays you actually see more and more women leaving independently.” He said his research of a sample of female expatriate workers in Dubai found that they are typically “more educated than men” with more than 60 per cent having a degree from a university or college, compared to less than 30 per cent of men. And despite facing a number of obstacles, women workers are a more reliable source of remittances to their families than men, he said. “Although we found out that women are more educated, they are in actually lower skilled jobs. That means they actually get paid less. And yet while they get paid less, they actually remit more,” Naufel explain. A 2008 survey found that the average female expat sent just shy of Dhs17,000 a year home from the UAE – around Dhs2,000 a year more than men. The two economists yesterday that pattern still holds true today. Western Union’s regional vice president Sobia Rahman said the impetus for the study came when she realised several of the women working in her local beauty salon had worked apart from their families for over a decade to pay for their children’s education. Sharing one Filipina’s story of paying for four children to get the university education she never had, Rahman said: “Through the remittances she had been sending back home for 10 years plus she had basically change the economics for her family, her children, probably the city that she came from and eventually the Philippines itself. And she is not alone.” Policymakers in the Gulf should study ways of “uniting those families” in this region, Genc said, adding they would reap the dividend of keeping more money in their own economies.

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