Top 10 Facts About Poverty in the United Arab EmiratesIn the United Arab Emirates (UAE), skyscrapers, luxury vehicles, high-end shops and fast food chains line the streets. The country appears to be wealthy and in many ways it is. However, poverty in the UAE paint a picture of exclusion from the comfort, luxury and beauty that attracts so many tourists to the nation.

Facts About Poverty in the United Arab Emirates

  1. The poverty rate in the UAE is 19.5 percent, juxtaposing the stereotypes that many associate with the UAE. The poverty line in the UAE is defined as an income of 80 dirham ($22) a day.
  2. The UAE is mostly populated by immigrants from South Asia, Egypt and Morocco. Expatriates make up 88 percent of the UAE’s population. This percent also makes up the majority of the population living below the poverty line.
  3. Migrant workers often have to pay recruitment agencies to find legitimate work in the UAE. Many become immediately indebted to these agencies, rendering them susceptible to economic hardship.
  4. Human Rights Watch reported in September 2017 that the UAE adopted a protective labor legislation for migrant domestic workers. This piece of legislation has prohibited recruitment agencies from charging fees. However, there are still glaring weaknesses in UAE labor laws, especially those dealing with migrant workers. Millions of workers, particularly those with an “illegal status” in the UAE, are still paid unlivable wages and forced to work under extreme or unsafe conditions.
  5. The wealth gap between rich and poor in the UAE is one of the worst in the world, largely due to the amount of welfare and protection afforded to native Emiratis and the amount of neglect towards migrant workers.
  6. Increasing the inclusivity of the education system is one way that the UAE is working to reduce poverty. The UAE government has begun integrating a National Literacy Strategy while employing the Ministry of Education to create several strategies to further develop the education system.
  7. The UAE’s failure to integrate its citizens into the private sector of the economy has contributed to its high levels of poverty. Only 0.34 percent of Emiratis work in the private sector, which is largely due to the sociocultural stigma around service jobs. The government has made several attempts to break this association and promote citizen employment in all sectors. They do so through education initiatives, but the welfare system allows many Emiratis to work very little or not at all and still maintain their livelihood.
  8. The Emiritization initiative has been in place for decades now and requires every company with more than 100 employees to have a certain number of Emiratis on their payrolls. The program has been effective in the public sector, but has largely failed to address the lack of workforce participation within the private sector.
  9. Expatriates are fined for overstaying their visas, while being prohibited from leaving the country until their debts are paid. Fines range between 25 and 100 dirhams ($7-$27) for every day beyond their visa expiration date. The economic desperation invoked by this policy, on top of the desperation caused by recruitment fees, has made immigrants especially vulnerable to labor exploitation in the UAE.
  10. According to The News Tribune, officials reported that 25,000 migrant workers exceeded their stay in 2017 alone. The UAE has recognized the difficult situation created by their fine policy. On August 1, 2018, the government launched an amnesty program, forgiving all fines associated with overstaying visas and granting new visas.

The facts about poverty in the United Arab Emirates reveal several systematic issues within the country. The improvements made on workers’ rights in the UAE cannot and should not overshadow the immense amount of work has to be done to allow an avenue of escape for impoverished migrant workers. The abuse of migrant labor, which the UAE largely depends, is perhaps the biggest problem it must tackle in order to address the overarching issue of poverty.

– Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) GDP per capita is a whopping 49,000, and the unemployment rate is as low as 2.4 percent. At first glance, the country appears to be thriving with room for growth; yet, there is a large population living in poverty in the UAE. This is not present in the news as the focus is usually on the prosperous cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, both of which control the majority of the UAE’s total wealth.

This media focus gives outsiders the illusion of a rich and prospering country, and here are 10 facts about poverty in the United Arab Emirates worth knowing.

Facts About Poverty in the United Arab Emirates

  1. There is no official data on poverty in the UAE. The government does not release official data regarding any local poverty levels. This lack of facts should raise some questions regarding the government’s concerns and relief efforts.
  2. The UAE is one of the top ten richest countries in the world, and yet a large percentage of the population lives in poverty — an estimated 19.5 percent. This percentage is alarming as the nation is still considered wealthy on the whole even though almost a fifth of its people are not.
  3. Abu Dhabi and Dubai control 83.2 percent of the UAE’s wealth. This means that the other five emirates depend on the federal government for financial support.
  4. At least 98 percent of the families that get help from government aid have loans that prohibit them from paying for living essentials. Some blame this on the high standards of society and the cost of living expenses in the UAE.
  5. There are rules to receiving governmental financial aid. Before one is eligible for aid, the government looks at a family’s income, properties, ratio of family member to rooms, rent and health statuses.
  6. Poverty in the UAE can be seen in the labor conditions of the working class. Migrants come to Dubai looking for work and send remittances back to their families. They are promised good pay and healthy living conditions; unfortunately, these assurances are rarely fulfilled.
  7. The economic crisis of 2008 confused poverty statistics. Pre-economic crisis, the poverty rate of the UAE was around 20 percent; currently, the UAE reports their poverty rate to be zero, based on a poverty line of around $22 a day.
  8. Reporters in the UAE are discouraged to write about poverty. The government controls information surrounding the state and has the power to suppress facts about reality.
  9. The economy is entirely dependent on trade and oil. Thus, government subsidies are needed when global prices fall.
  10. Economic distinctions are based on nationality and gender. Women are routinely discriminated against in hiring decisions, contributing to a gap in the poverty rates.

Room for Growth in the UAE

These facts about poverty in the United Arab Emirates show that although stable in many regards, the UAE could do with foreign aid and government assistance.

While the country has impressive employment rates and GDP per capita, the percentage of citizens living in or at poverty level is striking. Thankfully, the local government of the UAE has implemented assistance programs in an effort to reduce and relief local poverty. But also in the meantime, assistance should be offered and readily available for those in need.

– Haley Hine
Photo: Google

Education in the UAE

Education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has undergone significant changes since the small Arab nation was founded in 1971. At that time, options for students were few and far between, but this has changed significantly in recent years.

The UAE currently offers every citizen education completely free, from kindergarten to even university. The government even funds the educational endeavors of students if they seek to further their studies abroad. Moreover, the literacy rate in the UAE is 93.1 percent for males and 95.8 percent for females, according to recent estimates. This is a significant increase from the rate of adult literacy in 1975, which was only 54 percent for men and 31 percent for women.

University enrollment rates similarly paint a more optimistic picture of the educational landscape in the UAE. About 95 percent of all girls in their final year of high school apply to university, while 80 percent of males in their final year of high school apply to university. However, education in the UAE still requires improvements in order to produce competitive students in today’s world. This is evidenced by the goals of the UAE Vision 2021, the government’s five-year plan to push the country to innovate and develop, where education is given immense importance in order to secure the future prosperity of the nation on the world stage. The UAE hopes to diversify its economy, especially by investing in the very citizens who are likely to play a major role in its future growth.

Furthermore, the benefits of improving education in the UAE are by no means vague or illusory. Indeed, Dubai Cares, the philanthropic organization based in the UAE, attempts to address poverty across the globe by means of education. This program is devoted to combating poverty and hunger through education via a variety of means – one in particular is to establish school programs that ensure the children are being fed in countries ranging from Ghana to Palestine. Dubai Cares firmly believes that in education lies the key to effectively fighting poverty. Another prominent example is investing in girls’ education, believing that doing so enlightens others and results in health benefits that will affect future generations.

The intersection of education and philanthropy is hardly a surprise. Educating others gives them the tools to make proper decisions that are in their long-term interest. It helps them pull themselves out of poverty and also avoid it in the future. The future returns of such an endeavor cannot be lightly dismissed, since educated parents are likely to instill the same values in the younger generation.

Mohammad Hasan Javed

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country most recently known for its fashion malls, luxurious lifestyle and the presence of Arab royalty.  However, the country is now also becoming known for its rate of obesity. According to a report by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, more than half of the population—roughly 66 percent of men and 60 percent of women—are considered overweight or obese. That is double the world average. Therefore, it is not unfair to state that the majority of the common diseases in the UAE are a result of these high obesity rates.

The roots of these rates are being studied to find solutions. Dr. Adbulrahman O Musaiger, the director of the Environmental and Biological Program at the Bahrain Center for Studies and Research has some insight. He stated that “over recent years, there has been a steady increase in food-energy consumption, and a lack of physical exercise is also apparent.” This has led to a jump in rates of obesity in the past decade. It is important to note here that this is a recent issue.

In addition to adults being at-risk, there has also been an increase in the prevalence of the obesity in children. The study “Increasing Obesity Rates in School Children in the United Arab Emirates” found that 40 percent of schoolchildren were overweight and a further 24.4 percent were obese.

As a result, common diseases in the UAE—in addition to obesity—include diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This increase in disease leads to some extra expenses for the UAE’s Ministry of Health. Is it estimated that the problem of obesity and diseases associated with it annually costs a whopping $56 billion.

Experts are urging that the government and citizens of the UAE quell issues of obesity through a change in diet and exercise. These changes include labeling contents of food more clearly and encouraging family doctors to offer health advice to people who suffer from obesity.

Richard Dobbs, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, suggested that “urban planning and building design need to be worked upon.” This way, staircases can be more accessible than they currently are. With small everyday changes, it is possible to bring the frequency of obesity down in the UAE.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in United Arab Emirates

Currently, information on poverty in the United Arab Emirates is hard to find. A coordinator at the ministry of social affairs claimed in 2011 that the ministry was working on poverty research that would “be available by the end of 2011.”

While detailed information on poverty in the United Arab Emirates is still difficult to come by, information on the possible causes of poverty in the United Arab Emirates can be found.

Naturally, how poverty is looked at and tackled differs depending on the country, and as such it is to be expected that some of the causes of poverty in the United Arab Emirates should be unique. According to The National (a news agency focused on the Middle East), high levels of debt can be seen as one of the leading causes of poverty in the United Arab Emirates.

Ministry of Social Affairs research looks to society’s “high standards” as the most common factor of the impoverished; followed closely by the high standards of living. To maintain these “high standards,” the people in the United Arab Emirates are willing to apply for loans to help maintain a certain image of affluence.  However, “98 percent of families getting help from the Red Crescent (part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent) have loans that leave them unable to pay for essentials of living”.

It may be hard to believe that “image” can be counted as one of the causes of poverty in the United Arab Emirates. There are government programs and specialist foundations that are available to help with financial aid and support, however, according to the National, the main reason people do not ask for help is feelings of shame because “they think it is embarrassing.”

The United Arab Emirates is the second-wealthiest nation in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia.  The country gets comprised of six Emirates which are political territories ruled by a dynastic Islamic monarch called an Emir. The six Emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain and Fujairah.

With the widely known Titans of Burj Khalifa, the Mall of Dubai, Emirates Airline or how the country has 6 percent of the world’s oil reserves, it is easy to ignore the causes of poverty in the United Arab Emirates. However, with multiple people from nations such as Pakistan and India all looking to find their fortune in the country; the issue of poverty cannot afford to be forgotten or ignored.

Obinna Iwuji

Photo: Unsplash

Human Rights in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the richest nations on earth, best known around the world for the city of Dubai and its glitzy developments and jaw-dropping skyscrapers.

A darker side of the Emirates exists concurrently with the nation’s modern image. Human rights in the UAE are sorely lacking, and the experience of some Emiratis, particularly for its migrant workers, is one of labor abuses, indefinite detention and even torture.

Amnesty International has identified repeat offenses where human rights are violated in the UAE. Peaceful critics of the ruling royal family regularly face prosecution without sufficient trials; arbitrary detentions have led to “disappearances” of critics altogether and female Emiratis are largely unprotected under UAE law from sexual violence or domestic abuse.

The UAE is a nation of immigrants who make up 88 percent of the population; 65 percent of these are migrant workers from South Asia and this community often faces harrowing violations of their human rights. The ‘kafala’ system requires workers to receive sponsorship from an employer before arriving, making them legally dependent and vulnerable to abuse.

On projects like Saadiyat Island, soon to be home to an NYU campus and a surrogate of the Guggenheim Museum, striking migrant workers have been deported, others have had their passports confiscated and wages have been withheld. In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch urged the UAE government to reform the kafala system to prevent these abuses taking place. However, subsequent visits to Saadiyat revealed violations to have continued and any reforms put in place to have been inconsequential.

Human Rights Watch, under pressure from the UAE authorities, has to conduct their research and interviews discreetly. As a result, the extent of human rights violations is unclear and difficult to address effectively with any third-party organizations.

However, organizations such as the Tourist Development and Investment Company (TDIC) have taken steps to address the abuse. TDIC has introduced new labor guidelines for employers to prevent passport seizures and ensure fixed working hours. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) acts as a compliance monitor.

Reforms to the kafala system that enable workers to change employers more easily have so far failed to be properly implemented. Under the auspices of the TDIC and the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority (EAA), human rights in the UAE and its situation for migrant workers could improve significantly.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in the United Arab Emirates

While people often banter about giving up their old lives and moving to a new, more exciting country, it’s important to explore the cost of living change that comes with it. It turns out that the cost of living in the United Arab Emirates, and Dubai especially, is higher than one might expect.

Business Insider ranks the United Arab Emirates as 10 points higher on a cost of living expense scale than the United States. Its closest neighbors in relation to cost of living are countries such as the Bahamas and Norway.

This high cost of living is evident in everyday prices. For example, the average monthly rent for a 900-square-foot apartment is more than $2,654. An average lunch is $15 and a pair of jeans runs to around $82.

In comparison to the United States, even these daily expenses appear slightly steep. Going for lunch rings in around $14 and the same size apartment is estimated to be $2085. Jeans, by the same standards, cost $47.

Many people move to the United Arab Emirates for jobs in the oil industry and the country is known for its lack of income tax. Over the last 50 years, the nation has moved from being ranked 182 in the world for population size to 93. It continues to climb the ranks each year.

Surveys estimate that half of the expatriates, citizens of other countries living in the United Arab Emirates, consider moving elsewhere because of the high cost of living. They argue that their wages are remaining stagnant while the cost of living continues to rise.

Although the increased cost of living in the United Arab Emirates is a side effect of being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the country remains a huge contributor to international foreign aid.

Since its establishment, the total international aid provided by the United Arab Emirates’ government and non-government organizations is estimated to total $47.4 billion. This includes a recently strong focus on finding cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, with particular regards to solar power.

As the country continues to flourish, the cost of living in the United Arab Emirates is expected to increase, but private sector companies pay close attention and work to keep wages high enough to counteract inflation.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in the United Arab Emirates

Known for having one of the largest oil reserves in the world, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) currently faces daunting issues with its water. Water availability and water quality in the United Arab Emirates are both areas of concern.

Because of the country’s extremely arid landscapes, water scarcity is a crucial issue, especially since the country has one of the highest rates of consumption of water per capita at 550 liters a day. The scarcity of groundwater coupled with the limited and expensive processing and treatment of existing water creates a challenging situation for the UAE. With so little water available in the area, water becomes a commodity that some predict will eventually become more expensive than oil.

The water crisis in the United Arab Emirates is a growing concern for government officials. One company even proposed a plan to bring icebergs all the way from Antarctica to the coast in order to deal with the water scarcity. Others focus on desalination plants as a solution, but desalination is an expensive and energy-intensive process. There are also risks of negative environmental impacts on the coast, and the water that these plants produce has a higher risk of oil pollution.

Two main sectors are responsible for most of the water consumption in the UAE: the private sector and the agricultural sector. The approach that these sectors take when dealing with water scarcity will be crucial to how the country deals with the water crisis.

The private sector consumes about 24 percent of the UAE’s water. In such a brutally hot climate, much of the water used in private homes is because of air conditioning units, but the most important use of water is drinking water. Due to concerns about water quality in the United Arab Emirates, many people prefer to drink bottled water. Because it takes about three liters of water to make one liter of bottled water, the prevalence of bottled water greatly inflates water use on an individual level.

Contaminated water is not an imagined problem for UAE households, so it is understandable why so many choose to drink bottled water. Private water can be contaminated by old and rusty pipes filled with bacteria, and because water is often stored in tanks, there is a risk of contamination by foreign objects such as animals, insects, and metals. Since the UAE has no law to enforce the replacement of pipes or the cleaning of such tanks, water contamination is a possibility.

Despite these risks of water contamination, the water quality in the United Arab Emirates is adequate, and most experts maintain that this sort of contamination is very unlikely. In an effort to reduce unnecessary water use, many people advocate against the overuse of bottled water. They teach that bottled water and filtered tap water are almost exactly the same in quality and taste, yet there is a prevailing attitude that the water is dangerous to use or drink. The water quality is blamed for problems such as dry skin, premature aging and hair loss.

Advocates against the dependence on bottled water also warn that bottled water might have its own harmful consequences, such as the presence of fluoride, a substance still under scrutiny, and BPA, an industrial chemical that may have negative health effects on the brain and blood pressure. The environmental impact is important to consider as well since most people use the bottle once and throw it away, leading to a large amount of unnecessary and expensive waste. Even with these concerns in mind, many UAE citizens continue to rely on bottled water.

Though the private sector has a great deal of influence on the water availability crisis, the agricultural sector has the biggest impact and is the largest consumer of water. The agriculture sector consumes nearly two-thirds of the nation’s water. Due to the continually growing population of the UAE, there was a recent surge in demand for food, causing the UAE’s agricultural sector to have a higher demand than ever.

The agriculture industry is attempting to move away from water-intensive crops and introduce drip irrigation, and people continue to search for ways to reduce the excessive use of water in agriculture. Some have suggested an improved system of collecting and treating wastewater to use for agriculture. Wastewater processing plants are cheaper than desalination plants in part because they make use of the water already present in the system rather than relying on extracting water from the surrounding environment, but these solutions have yet to be put in place.

There are many possible ways for the UAE to address the water crisis, but along with the various proposed solutions, education about the crisis is an important step along the way. The water quality in the United Arab Emirates is only a part of the problem; the water crisis is a long-term problem that is likely to have profound impacts for decades to come. Therefore, the continued education about water scarcity and responsible water use is crucial to further efforts of reducing water consumption and working to end the water crisis.

Rachael Lind

Photo: Flickr

Several of the 10 richest countries in the world are also leaders in foreign aid and charitable donations to organizations that fight poverty both at home and abroad.

According to Global Finance Magazine, which utilized data provided by the International Monetary Fund, the 10 richest countries in the world by GDP per capita are Qatar, Luxembourg, Macao, Singapore, Brunei, Kuwait, Ireland, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and San Marino.

Number five on the list with a per capita GDP of $71,263, Kuwait has a history of offering humanitarian aid to developing countries, particularly in the Arab world. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has provided a total of $18.5 billion in loans to 104 countries in support for education, health services and agricultural development since the fund’s establishment in 1961. Part of the fund is also put aside to assist Kuwait’s citizens in finding housing.

Kuwait is also known for providing humanitarian relief in the wake of natural disasters and violent conflict. The country recently provided $500 million to Yemen and pledged another $500 million to Syria. In 2015, Kuwait’s contribution to foreign aid was 2.1 percent of its GDP, more than twice the U.N. Official Development Assistance target.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Ranked ninth on the list with a per capita GDP of $67,696, in 2013 the UAE was recognized as the top humanitarian donor of the year, having contributed nearly six billion dollars in aid to over 140 countries to provide food, shelter and education to vulnerable populations, particularly in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories. Dubai, the UAE’s largest city, is also the location of the International Humanitarian City, which houses more than 50 commercial companies and nongovernmental organizations instrumental in the delivery of aid to areas of the world in need.

Ireland is the seventh richest country in the world and has a GDP of $69,374. In 2013, 49 of the top Irish companies donated over 24 million euro to local groups and organizations that focus on issues such as homelessness, education and disability services. The country increased its foreign aid budget, offering 640 million euro for developmental assistance in 2016, a seven percent increase from the previous year. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan defined the fight against poverty and hunger worldwide as being “at the core of Irish foreign policy.”

Just behind Ireland with a GDP of $69,296, Norway allocates large amounts of aid money toward global education and health. It spent the third-highest percentage of gross national income on foreign aid in 2016 out of all the countries in the U.N., placing it just behind the UAE. Norway has recently proposed to double its support for renewable energy and is working with Kenya through the Oil for Development program to help Kenya protect its natural resources while gaining a foothold in the petroleum sector.

These nations, four of the 10 richest countries in the world, give back for a variety of reasons. The UAE claims that the humanitarian element is the single deciding factor in its policy on foreign aid, citing an Islamic belief that it is an obligation to help the less fortunate. Others see foreign aid as a means to strengthen its own political, diplomatic and economic positions. According to Dr. Hessah Al-Ojayan, assistant professor of finance at Kuwait University, Kuwait uses foreign aid to achieve “smaller ‘wins’ in the day-to-day global political arena.” Similarly, Norway’s partnership with Kenya, which the government has called “an engine of economic growth in Africa” and “increasingly important for Norwegian interests,” has the potential to be mutually beneficial.

Several of the 10 richest countries in the world have also made it to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index top 20. The rankings are determined by three criteria: the percentage of people surveyed from that country who say that they have helped a stranger, donated money or volunteered time. These statistics show that not only the governments of these countries, but also the citizens themselves, are generous to the less fortunate. Ireland ranks ninth on the list, followed by the UAE at 10th, Norway at 14th and Kuwait at 19th.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr

Wealth in Dubai: Making Generous Strides in the Global Poverty EffortFrom a small pearl fishing village to one of the richest cities in the world, Dubai has made quite the journey. Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and is home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

People believe that wealth in Dubai stems from its oil industry. However, it only accounts for about 7 percent of its total revenue. The big bucks are in Dubai’s real estate.  Reports show that most of the state’s $82.11 billion in revenue come from its investment in real estate, airlines, and sea ports.

Dubai has shown that its population has no plans to hold onto its wealth.  The city has made tremendous strides toward the eradication of global poverty and plans to continue to do so until it is eliminated.  Forty-six years after the foundation of the UAE, international aid provided by its government and non-governmental organizations has been estimated at $15.23 billion.  This international support using wealth in Dubai makes it one of the world’s largest contributors to foreign aid.

“Foreign aid and assistance are one of the basic pillars of our foreign policy.  For we believe that there is no true benefit for us from the wealth that we have unless it does not also reach those in need, wherever they may be, and regardless of their nationality or beliefs,” founder and former president of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said.

The majority of Dubai’s foreign aid goes to programs that focus on the assistance of the poor, healthcare, energy generation, transport and storage.  In recent years, the state has put an emphasis on the pursuit of solar energy.

Dubai’s leaders say that sustainability and clean energy are priorities for any long-term resolution to issues created by poverty.  They say that further investment in solar energy will lead to its use in emergency operations, schools, refugee camps and other aid processes of this kind.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr