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