Survey: UAE Gains Strength During Covid Crisis

This is the second year we have measured the UAE's Net Promoter Score, and it has gained strength year on year, largely as a result of how well it has handled itself during the pandemic, but also because of a shift in priorities.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

This is the second year we have measured the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the UAE as a whole as part of the Happiness and Wellbeing survey, and the international benchmark of brand strength has risen sharply since 2019.

It may be a little unusual to use a brand measurement tool on a country, but we think it makes a whole lot of sense. If a brand has a strong Net Promoter Score it will grow by word of mouth. If it has a negative Net Promoter score, the brand will, over time, lose its position in the market, and certainly in the case of goods and services, may even die. In the case of a country it would just lose relevance.

Given the coopetition that exists between nation states in today's globalised economy, understanding nation brand value has never been more important.

The Net Promoter Score measures the number of people that actively (without prompting) recommend brand UAE (the promoters), and subtracts the number of those that criticise or would not recommend the UAE (the detractors). The result is the Net of Promoters.

A strong brand delivers on its promise, and satisfies real needs. While it is very difficult to assess the NPS across sectors, orthodoxy is that any NPS score above 0 is "good". It means that an audience is more loyal than not. Anything above 20 is considered "favourable". Bain & Co, the source of the NPS system, suggests that above 50 is excellent, and above 80 is world class.

What really matters of course is how you compare with your competition, and there is, surprisingly, no global NPS city or country ranking that we can find. What we do believe, however, is that +23 is an exceptional result from a difficult year, and one the UAE's peers would have difficulty matching. Covid allowing, in practice this means a net movement inwards of people, assets and capital.

So what has the UAE done well? Well, within the confines of our survey we can point to a growing sense that the Standard of Life (see slide 2, above) is perceived to be better in the UAE than in respondents home countries. We have seen the UAE's Covid-19 response has scored highly, and there is no doubt that the pandemic has played a part in these results. However, the trend in perceptions over Standards of Life in the UAE has been upwards for some time. In 2014, almost 20% of respondents thought that in terms of standard of life (note, this is not the same as material wealth), they thought their home country was a better proposition. In 2020, just 4.17% of respondents think so.

In terms of why people choose to live in the UAE (scroll to slide 3 above), standard of life tops the chart. It is chosen by 23% of respondents. This has fallen from 2019, but then given the limitations imposed on movement by Covid, this is understandable. Standard of life has been the number one choice since we began the survey in 2014.

Career opportunity had consistently been the second most important reason cited by respondents for all surveys up to this year. There is nothing like a health scare to make you reassess priorities. In 2020, it was cited by 15% of respondents, down only 1% from last year, but by 5 points from 2014. What is interesting is what has replaced it in second place: My children's quality of life (16% up from 10.26% in 2019 and 6% in 2014). Two other big risers also suggest increasing importance being placed on more 'spiritual' concerns. "I am just happy here" has risen from 4.87% to 9%, while safety and the lack of crime has risen from 8.87% to 12%. Pay and the low taxation environment have both fallen in importance.

There are no major surprises as to what keeps you up at night. Job insecurity has risen again to 29% (from 24.65%). No permanent residency options also remains the second largest concern, chosen by 18% of respondents. Interestingly price rises as an issue has fallen markedly, as has lack of retirement and savings options. We have seen, across the world, that household savings rates have risen sharply during the pandemic. Prices become less important if you are restricted in when and how you can spend your money...

Overall, this is a very positive story for the UAE for 2020. Of course what matters most is how skilfully countries manage their way out of the pandemic, and this journey has yet to really begin. With Expo on the horizon however, let's all hope that the UAE continues to be more adept than its peers in its positioning, and can really benefit from post-pandemic global growth.

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