OFWs emerge as valued clients, investors in UAE

A Filipino construction worker in the United Arab Emirates (Source: constructionweekonline.com)

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now being targeted as valued clients and investors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid their increasing contribution to the Arab country’s economy.

Public relations firm EON said an increasing number of multinational companies, which deals with fashion and luxury brands, resorts and real estate in UAE, are now considering some Filipinos as potential valued clients.

EON Chief Innovation Officer Carlos A. Rodriguez said this is supported by the results of their study EON Insight: Focus on the Filipino in the UAE, which was released last September.

“In terms of purchasing power, the Filipinos are now able to spend on a lot of things in the UAE. And, therefore, companies in the UAE should market to them more effectively,” Rodriguez told the BusinessMirror in an interview.

New categories

The study divided the over 750,000 documented OFWs in UAE based on their skills, behavior and income into three categories.

The first are expat achievers, those who earn a monthly salary of  AED13,000 a month. They are usually highly skilled and have a entrepreneurial mindset, and are employed as doctors, engineers, architects, fashion designers, information-technology (IT) experts and business owners.

Only around 18 percent of the overall OFWs in UAE belong to this group, but they tend to be the ones who tend to spend on luxury brands.

The second group with the most number of representation (20 percent) in the UAE come from the “bayaning survivor.” These include household service workers (HSW) and construction workers, who earn more than AED 3,000 to AED 7,999. They tend to send most of their earning to their families in the Philippines.

The bulk, or 37 percent, of the Filipinos in UAE are the Pinoy Dreamer group, who earn AED 3,000 to AED 7,999.

This category include nurses, hotel personnel, service crew, IT or office staff, as well as marketing personnel.

“They are in sectors that directly contribute to UAE’s gross domestic product [GDP],” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez added it is this group which most companies in UAE are aiming for since they tend to be “fashion oriented and are likely to try new brands and products.”

“The facts [show] these Filipinos…are earning more money than before. And in terms of consumptive behavior, they [are] actually the biggest spenders compared to the other large populations of expats like Indians and Pakistanis,” Rodriguez said.

Better policies

The EON study covered over 600 respondents in their online and face-to-face surveys, as well as 100 individuals who went through focus group discussions.

Rodriguez said they hope their study will helpfully translate to better improve treatment and policies for Filipinos in the UAE.

“They [government and business executives] were surprised [with the new Filipino market segments]. But it was already at the back of their minds so it was just like a validation. Before all they got was largely anecdotal with no hard numbers and study to back it up,” Rodriguez said.

He noted OFWs tend to face discrimination in the UAE since they are often stereotyped as low skilled and have minimal income.

“If they know we became successful through our own merits and we are earning more money than the rest,” Rodriguez said.

“These form part of the reasons why discrimination dissipates. The biases are deconstructed. It is just one of the many things which is making the UAE a much better place for the Filipinos,” he added.

Potential opportunities

The shift with regards to the perception of Filipinos in UAE, EON said, is now apparently improving as more multinational companies are availing of their services in the UAE.

EON has just opened a new branch in UAE last year as part of its international expansion initiative.

“We have been getting a lot of calls from companies for information and if they can get meetings with us…we’ve just started closing these deals. We just began some campaigns,” Rodriguez said.

Currently, he said, only 30 percent of their clients in UAE are multinationals, while the remaining 70 percent are from Filipino firms.

“We have clients which are Filipino companies. They are primarily targeting Filipino markets. But we are now in talks with our existing clients who are looking to expand their marketing to include other nationalities,” Rodriguez said.

He said most Filipino companies they have business deals are in the logistics, entertainment and service sector.

He said they are targeting to increase the international clients in UAE to 50 percent once they further expand their operations in said country in the coming years.

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