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Dubai launches a virtual working program for foreigners yet cuts salaries for locals. Fair?

The digital nomad community is growing fast. It’s not news that with the pandemic many companies, including Silicon Valley giants, let their employees work remotely from home or anywhere in the world. With this new trend, some countries are considering new types of visas for foreigners, or, basically, in other words – a digital nomad visa.

Recently Dubai has launched a new virtual working program for professionals from overseas. It allows living in Dubai while working for companies from abroad. Remote workers can move with their families annually and enjoy great digital infrastructure, a safe and high-quality lifestyle, and no income tax for individuals.

Besides, the UAE has global recognition for a great job done in terms of dealing with the pandemic. Dubai has been awarded the Safe Travels Stamp award for its efforts and the highest standards of hygiene and COVID-19 precautionary measures.

Dubai is also famous for its great networking opportunities. Its e-infrastructure is #1 in the global ranking according to the Quality of Life (DQL) survey.

What’s the deal?

The virtual working program’s cost is US$287 but requires you to buy medical insurance with coverage in the UAE, and there’s a processing fee. Here’s the application for the annual program.

Applicants need to have:

  • Passport valid minimum for 6 months
  • Health insurance covering UAE
  • A one-year contract with a current employer and a minimum US$5,000 of monthly salary, last month’s payslip, and 3 preceding months’ bank statements
  • For self-employed: proof of ownership of the company for a year or more, with an average monthly income of US$5,000, and 3 preceding months’ bank statements

The program is a big step in making Dubai one of the global hubs bringing digital nomadism to another level. However, there’s an interesting issue at play. 30 percent of UAE companies plan to cut their workforce and 10 percent expect to reduce salaries, as Khaleej Times reports.

The direct impact of Covid-19 on the compensation and benefits landscape is less drastic than initially feared. Even though 10 percent of UAE companies reduced salaries on a temporary basis, and 30 percent have plans to cut headcount, according to a Mercer survey.

With that been said, offering a virtual working program for foreigners while locals are losing their jobs could be considered as not a fair move from the UAE government.

However, Carolina Vorster, Workforce Products Leaderat Mercer, commented on it this way:

Even though we expect uncertainty to span into 2021, the Total Remuneration Survey results promise a more optimistic new year as companies are increasingly reporting positive hiring sentiments compared to those indicated at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the first major destination fully opening up its MICE sector, Dubai provides vast opportunities for new collaborations, business deals, international events, and more.

Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) is a type of tourism in which large groups, usually planned well in advance, are brought together. Recently there has been an industry trend towards using the term ‘meetings industry‘ to avoid confusion from the acronym.

Fair or not, the move to welcome remote workers is forward-thinking in a Covid-19 world. But how the UAE will be perceived when its local companies are making cuts is yet to be seen.

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Written by Victoria Loskutova

Chief Creative Officer at Badass Times, Co-founder of Badass Empire, journalist, rebel, badass.


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