According to Al-Qabas daily, expatriates are slowly returning to their countries due to the extremely high cost of living in GCC countries, which made them less attractive to work in, especially since most GCC governments distribute subsidies to their citizens only. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain are home to about 21 million expatriates, while the United Arab Emirates, home to 20% of the population and 11% of the workforce, do not have any official statistics on expatriates.
According to the report, expat remittances in 2021 exceeded $127 billion, compared to $116 billion in 2020; it also noted that four countries saw an increase in expat remittances last year - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait, while Bahrain and Oman saw declines.
Expatriates in countries in the region are facing higher expenses, fees, and taxes, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where expatriates have to pay 4,500 riyals per month for each member of their family, in addition to high electricity and water bills. As part of the reforms, Bahrain has also increased the price of gasoline by 200%, lifted subsidies on meat and given its citizens cash allowances, as well as mandating health insurance for expatriates.
Despite a significant rise in living costs in the country, the UAE imposed fees on expatriates amid the principle of job localization for more than 200 jobs in the private sector. Expatriates are not allowed to purchase basic commodities at low prices in Kuwait because financial subsidies are only given to citizens to buy basic commodities in cooperative societies. Most expatriates in Qatar earn much lower wages than nationals.
Low-wage expatriates are not greatly affected by fees and taxes imposed by Gulf states, but middle-income individuals are most affected, such as teachers, engineers, and administrative staff, whose salaries may range from 1,500 to 4,000 dollars per month. Many of these employees have to send their families back home and share housing and transportation with others, while others leave their jobs to find work in other countries.