High cost of living shrinks Filipino population in UAE

MANILA, Philippines - High costs of living, coupled with the global financial crisis, shrunk the Filipino population in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an online report said on Saturday.

Gulf News reported on Saturday that the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi said that there were about 279,602 Filipinos in the UAE in 2007, a drop from the previous number pegged to be at 350,000.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Libran Cabactulan told Gulf News that the decrease in the number of Filipinos residing in the receiving country was due to a lot of factors, one of the major reasons of which was the high costs of living.

"The UAE cost of living is…very high and the rent here is prohibitive. I've had comments from people who say, 'I am just working so I can pay for my apartment' (with no chance to save)," he said.

In addition, he said that there has been an increasing demand for Filipino workers in other countries.

"There are other areas that are pulling for more Filipinos, like Qatar. The (Filipino) population is rising there. There is also increasing demand for health workers in countries like Canada," he said.

Moreover, Cabactulan said he predicts that the global crunch might cause the Filipino population in UAE to decline further once companies decide to downsize and freeze their hiring.

"(However) I hope it will increase in the future," he said.

Meanwhile, as the economic crisis stemmed from the real estate sector, it also gravely affects the same sector in most countries.

Virgie Calvez, labor attaché with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Dubai, told Gulf News that a few Filipinos have been laid off in the real estate industry, although she did assure Filipino workers that other nationalities were also affected.

"(The companies) are just shedding unnecessary staff in sales and marketing," she said.

Moreover, she said that some companies are still hiring despite hard times.

"There are still employers looking for people, which is evident from a recent jobs fair we held. Our workers are (also) not giving up," she said.