Expats working in the public sector for the Abu Dhabi government have just 12 months to find new homes or lose their jobs.
In a bid to cut traffic accidents and to improve staff performance by cutting travelling times, the government has banned all workers – including expats – from commuting from outside Abu Dhabi.
The move has upset thousands who choose to live and commute the 100 miles daily along the coast highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Government figures reckon around 23,000 workers are affected by the rule – of which half are expats preferring to relocate to Dubai.
Rents in Dubai are lower than in Abu Dhabi, while the city is regarded as having better shops, sports facilities and a lively nightlife.
An Abu Dhabi executive council spokesman told local media: “If an employee has to drive for two hours in the morning and evening, he will be affected both physically and psychologically. Long hours on the road affects the concentration of the driver.
“It has to be noted that the Abu Dhabi-Dubai Highway is rated as among the 10 most dangerous roads in terms of the number of accidents and deaths.”
The executive council claims Abu Dhabi has sufficient homes and infrastructure to cope with an influx of relocating public sector employees.
The government has also indicated that housing allowances or a rent freeze will not be implemented to tempt expats to Abu Dhabi from Dubai as the workers are believed to receive the highest allowance paid in the UAE.
“Government employees in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are paid the highest house allowance in the country in order to ensure they don’t have to live in far-flung areas where they find cheaper rents,” said the spokesman.
New schools and hospitals
Abu Dhabi health authorities are have a hospital capacity at 2.9 beds for every 1,000 patients, which matches levels in the USA and the UK.
The government is building 15 new hospitals, which will increase the ratio to 4.7 beds per 1,000 patients by 2014.
The council feels no stress over schooling as Abu Dhabi is opening 34 new schools for the next academic year.
Another 12 are ready to open, and five more are in the pipeline.
“They can accommodate 22,000 students by the next academic year,” said the spokesman. “This is expected to go up again, to provide 65,000 study seats in the academic year 2013-2014.”