Mind the gap: The difference between an Expat and a Migrant

Like many of its GCC neighbours, the United Arab Emirates(UAE) is packed to the brim with immigrants. With about 90% of the population made up of foreign nationalities, the UAE has one of the highest percentages of immigrants in the world.

The foreigners are roughly divided into two camps: the expats and the migrant workers. But what exactly is the difference between them?

Both groups are here from another country. Both groups are here for only the short to medium term. And after their tenure working in the Emirates, members of both groups are expected to move back to their home countries.

What truly distinguishes these two groups from one another the opportunity for professional and financial growth, or the lack thereof.

Expats are typically well-educated professionals with specialized skills — they run the gamut from lawyers to creative directors at advertising firms. They are your accountant, your doctor, or even your yoga instructor. They usually have the opportunity to advance in their fields, pick up new skills and grow professionally.

Migrant workers are typically semi-skilled or unskilled. They are construction workers, deliverymen and waiters. They are shop assistants, domestic helpers, and building concierges. They work dead-end jobs that lead nowhere.

Expats in the UAE have access wealth management and financial services. They can take out loans to buy a car or start a business. They can take out mortgages to buy a freehold property.

Migrant workers, for the most part, don’t even have a bank account and send their remittances home via money transfer operators. They are “the unbanked” and what they don’t spend or send home, they save by stuffing under their mattresses.

Have you ever heard of a maid who got called by a wealth manager or a security guard being called by a job recruiter? What job is next in line for a taxi driver in the UAE once he’s done being a taxi driver? Is he ever done being a taxi driver? And whatever happened to your childhood nanny? Has she finally retired? Did she leave the UAE with a comfortable nest egg? Or are her own daughters now nannies or maids in another Gulf nation because there were no savings to speak of when she got home?

We founded rise(www.growwithrise.com) to bridge the opportunity gap that lies between the expat and the migrant when it comes to accessing financial services and the chance to grow in their fields. We believe that migrants face the same challenges and have the same dreams and hopes for the future as all of us. We are rise and we help them grow.