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Article | 21 Jan 2021

The UAE - one of the top places in the world to freelance?

Posted in Business, Freelancer, Industry news, Startups, UAE,

For those thinking about leaving the daily grind of the 9-5, the UAE is emerging as one of the top places in the world for those wanting to branch out and be their own boss.

The attractions of being based in the round-the-clock sunshine of the tax-free Emirates are abundant. Perhaps a timely draw of the UAE is the Emirates quick handle on the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has been ranked one of the safest places in the world for virus prevalence according to the latest statistics from Deep Knowledge Group, which assessed 100 countries' response to the pandemic and started the free Covid-19 vaccination drive for its residence back in December with 2 free vaccinations on offer including Pfizer- BioNTech. It means that the UAE, unlike many other countries, is ‘business-as-usual’ - opening up plenty of avenues for freelancers to find regular work.

The UAE’s location has also meant the Emirates is one of the most rapidly growing business hubs in the world. With an intent to grow further, UAE leaders have brought a number of economic reforms and administrative policies to attract capital and business houses from across the globe.

It is little wonder then, that according to a study released by Expert Market UK, the UAE ranked fourth after Hong Kong, USA, and South Korea is among the ten best countries in the world to freelance in. The result was based on the comparison of 57 countries in terms of cost of living, income tax, access to credit, average internet speed, transport networks, free Wi-Fi availability, cost of a coffee, and finally, ease of starting a business.

Being strategically located at a junction between Europe, Africa, and the Far East, the UAE is an ideally located hub place in which to conduct business - a position which has just been strengthened with the Abraham Accords - a landmark commitment to normalising relations between the UAE and Israel and one which could see the UAE.

Backed by a healthy economy, the UAE also has particularly attractive finance options and a strong infrastructure, not to mention extensive government support for entrepreneurs, making it a fertile ground for start-ups, SMEs and there self-employed - all of which the Emirates have publicly heralded have been an integral prat of the UAE’s backbone, and have introduced a number of measures to support such entities. 

An astonishing 95 per cent of all enterprises in the UAE are start-ups and SMEs, setting the Emirates apart from other start-up hotspots. This demonstrates the entrepreneurial nature of the economy in the UAE and the ready-made client pool of SMEs and fast-growing tech leaders. One of the key drivers of the start-up economy in the UAE is the large range of incentives offered by the government to new businesses. The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, a not-for-profit development agency, is helping to spread a freelance culture, encouraging innovation, and setting up SMEs.

With a strong push to diversify itself from oil; the UAE publicly invests in innovation; leading it to be named the number one environment for innovation in the Arab World according to the Global Innovation Index. The culture of innovation is exemplified by new research institutions and technical centres established to promote research, creativity and innovation, such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and Dubai Science Park.

Aside from the pull of the sunshine-filled days, beaches and UAE’s stunning coastline, one of the biggest draws for freelancers in the UAE, is the tax-free environment - which will be a particular attraction for Brits who are self-employed; following the recently-announced changes to the UK’s off-payroll working rules, also known as IR35 reform, which set to take effect from 6 April 2021. From this date, unless contractors are engaged by a small private sector business, they will no longer have the power to determine their own IR35 status (employment status for tax).

With every dirham earned in the UAE going into a freelancers own pocket, the earning potential of the Emirates is only getting more favourable.

While these existing factors have drawn freelancers to the Emirates, there are also a host of emerging factors which is making the Middle Eastern hub the place for freelancers to be based. 

An ever-forward-thinking country, the UZAE has announced sweeping new legal changes making day-to-day living even more favourable for expats.

Under the relaxation of the legal system, alcohol consumption in the UAE is no longer be considered a criminal offence. Individuals no longer require licences to drink, possess or sell alcohol in authorised areas. The latest amendments to the law have also decriminalised the cohabitation of unmarried couples. Existing laws barred unmarried couples, or even unrelated individuals of the opposite sex, from sharing a residential accommodation.

With all these factors - coupled with a tax-free lifestyle in the sun - what are you waiting for?