Nearly all employees in the DIFC are expats

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The DIFC has long been the location of choice for expat financial services professionals, but just how underrepresented UAE nationals are in the financial centre is slightly disconcerting.

Just 2.2% of employees in the DIFC are UAE nationals, according to the financial centre’s new economics report.

This figure is low enough, but when you strip out those working in ‘public administration entities’, namely the DIFC itself and the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), it falls to 1.4%. This means just 181 of the nearly 13,000 people employed at the DIFC are UAE nationals.

Across the banking sector in the UAE, locals comprise 35% of the total headcount, but it’s clear that the DIFC – where most international financial services firms run their regional operations – is still the realm of foreign professionals.

Overall, the number of employees in the DIFC has increased by 14% to 12,945 over the last 12 months, with men still comprising 65.5% of the total workforce.

Elsewhere, there are reports that the DIFC’s crown may be looking less secure. The Securities and Commodities Authority is set to impose new regulations outlining minimum capital requirements for domestic funds and guidelines on promoting and offering foreign funds in the UAE.

The latter means another layer of regulation for the DIFC. Meanwhile, Qatar continues to promote itself as the place to be for asset managers and insurance firms.

“One major concern though is from a regional perspective. Qatar is bending over backwards to attract foreign funds to its financial district. For the UAE to add another layer of regulatory framework at such a time, it might prompt some funds looking to set up over the next year or so to head to Qatar instead of the UAE,” Amer Khan, fund manager, Shuaa Asset Management told Reuters.

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