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Population and Citizens of the UAE


Page update - Sep 23, 2022

This review will talk about the people who live and work in the United Arab Emirates. They are the people you will communicate with during your vacation, because they are the ones who stand behind the reception desks in hotels, drive tourist buses and cabs, and lead excursions.

It is useful to understand where these people come from, what are their life levels and interests. The information on this page was updated in September 2022. Unfortunately, not all the data for past 2021 is available, so we will use more old information in some parts of this review.

Let's define the notions

Before we talk in detail about the population of the United Arab Emirates, we have to decide who we mean by the word "population". Do we mean only citizens of the country or do we also include expat also?

When official sources publish statistics, all people are counted: citizens, people with work visas, and permanent residents from other countries. We will follow that idea.

How many people live in the UAE?

The last official census took place back in 2005. The population in the UAE is growing very rapidly due to new labor from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries.

In 2005, 4.1 million people were counted during the official census. After the census, the UN made a forecast for 2010 of 7.2 million. At the beginning of 2020, the estimate was 9.89 million. We want to point out that these and following figures are only a rough estimate, not the official statistics.

However, no one knows how the population changed in 2020-2021. During and after the first coronavirus outbreak in March-April 2020, there was a very interesting phenomenon in the UAE: the mass escape of expats. They were leaving by the thousands on special outbound flights. How many flew out? It hasn't been counted yet.

Many of them left for quite objective reasons - to go back to their families. Some of them were sure that the Arab Emirates was going to end. Such rumors were actively circulating at the time. There was mass psychosis all over the world at the time.

During the "delta" stamm outbreak in mid-2021, a similar phenomenon was observed, but on a much smaller scale. During the "omicron" outbreak in early 2022, nothing similar was observed (at least on a visible scale).

How did this affect the population? It's hard to say right now. So far, there is no official data from the authorities, and it is unlikely that this data will appear any time soon. Of the official data, there is a statement by Indian Foreign Minister Vellamwelli Muralidharan in January 2021 that since May 1.3 million people flew from the UAE to India and only 1.15 million have flown back. From these figures we can conclude that the UAE's population in 2021 decreased at least at the expense of Indians.

There are no reliable figures for the entire population yet. So, for now, we will use the end of 2019 figure of 9.89 million. There is also a World Bank estimate for 2021 of 9.991 million. As you can see, the numbers are almost identical. Of course, you can find many other figures on the Internet, but they are all estimated and theoretical. There are no official statistics, and everyone predicts their own numbers.



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Distribution by Emirate

Unfortunately, there is no fresh official statistics for population by the emirates. For example, for Dubai you can visit the official web-site of Dubai Statistics Center (www.dsc.gov.ae) and check the data by yourself. On the day of the last update of this page (September 2022) only 2020 data is available.

Some web-sites on the Internet try to imitate the rough estimate data as a fresh official statistics. So, be careful if the population data is important for you.

The most populous Emirate is Dubai, where more than 4 million people live. The population distribution is roughly as follows:

Dubai - 4,200,000

Abu Dhabi - 2,800,000

Sharjah - 1,600,000

Ajman - 500,000

Ras Al Khaimah - 400,000

Fujairah - 250,000

Umm Al Quwain - 80,000

Ethnic composition

It is an interesting fact that ethnic Arabs (UAE citizens) are by not the largest ethnic group in the country. Indians live the most in the country - from 2.5 to 3 million people, followed by Pakistanis - from 1.2 to 1.5 million.

Citizens are only in third place, with 1,034,568 (the exact figure is only available for 2018). Now (2022) the estimate is out of 1.15 million. Attentive readers will notice that the number of citizens is calculated to the nearest one, and the data on expats is approximate. Indeed, citizens in the UAE are strictly counted, while newcomers are not.

The fourth largest group consists of people from Bangladesh - from 700 thousand to 1 million, followed by the Filipinos - 500-700 thousand, Iranians and Egyptians - 400-500 thousand, Nepalis and Sri Lankans - 400-500 thousand.

Do not be surprised when you do not see an Arab at the hotel reception. Citizens do not work in such low positions. Citizens work in management - banks, police, customs, and other government institutions.

Expats, in most cases, do low-paying jobs. The exceptions are guest managers and high-grade workers from Western Europe, US or other developed countries. Such a various ethnic composition makes the demographic statistics in the UAE very interesting.

Features of population composition

In the UAE, there are 2.6 times more men than women. This is the reason why some tourist guides and web-sites do not recommend for women to go to the UAE alone.

But in fact, the UAE is one of the safest countries. Numbeo's Safety Index score for cities around the world is 83.59 (Dubai) and 88.45 (Abu Dhabi). It is an ultra-high safety index. In comparison, London has 46.42 and New York has 51.07 (figures in September 2022).

Cases of sexual violence or harassment someties happiened (it happiens in any country), but there are very few criminal cases.

Previously, in many of such cases the prosecution accused both participants for "sexual relations out of wedlock", and the participants could face up to 2 years in prison. But on November 8, 2020, the law was changed so there is no jail time under this article now. Read more in our review "What Tourists Can't Do in the UAE".

Thanks to expats, the country's population is very young - 55% of the population is between 20 and 40 years old. This is natural, because young people are invited to work, an old man will not be invited to work at a construction site.

The birth rate greatly exceeds the death rate. According to the latest statistics for 2018, about 100,000 people were born, about 14,000 died. Workers of a young age are invited to work in the country, with good health and minimal risk of death.

Life expectancy is high: 77.44 years for men, 79.46 years for women. By comparison, in the UK life expectancy for men is 79 years, for women 82.9 years. In the US life expectancy for men is 74.5 years, for women 80.2 years.

Tourists usually communicate with Indians, Iranians and other visitors. Let's talk about them in more detail.



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Guest workers in the UAE

They fall into three categories - illegal, "domestic workers" and workers under the Kafala Sponsorship System.

There are not many illegal workers, because the authorities are very active and successful in catching them. According to official figures, there are about 65,000 illegals in the country. Unofficial figures go up to 135,000. These are people who came on tourist visas and stayed to work. Of course, they work illegally.

"Domestic workers" are in the country on work visas. Their situation is much better than that of Kafala workers. They can change employers, their rights are better protected, and they are under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry.

The Kafala system has been in place in the UAE since 1971. Employer companies invite workers from abroad, sign contracts and bring workers into the country. From the moment the worker arrives in the UAE, he/she is under the responsibility of the employer. More often than not, he/she cannot change employers, cannot even break his contract and go home.

These workers are worse off, they are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor. Kafala workers are not protected by labor law.

International organizations condemn the UAE for the terrible working and living conditions of workers (pictured above, click on photo to enlarge to full screen). Indeed, the working day is not rationed, workers live in small rooms, often without air conditioning, and wages are small. Workers often have to work outdoors, which is difficult in the severe UAE weather.

It was these living conditions for workers that played a "cruel joke" on the UAE in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The virus spread very quickly in the compact living conditions. In Dubai, an entire neighborhood of Al-Ras had to be isolated. Ultra-strict measures were imposed, even allowing only one person from a household to go outside and only once every few days.

On average, a low-skilled worker in the UAE earns about 19,000 dirhams a year (see our page "UAE Currency" for the rate), that's about 430-450 dollars a month. For a UAE citizen, such a salary would be an abuse, but for Indians and Pakistanis it's a lot of money.

In 2012, the authorities introduced labor law reforms. In particular, they forbade employers to take away workers' passports! That is, before 2012 it was perfectly legal to take a worker's passport! Since 2012, the employer's responsibility for non-payment of wages has appeared, while before that time there was no such responsibility at all.

Workers occasionally stage riots in protest. For example, on March 21, 2006, a riot broke out on the construction site of the famous Burj Khalifa tower. Workers began to crash cars and offices. Naturally, the riot was put down by the police, all the participants were deported and banned from entering the country forever.

The life of the guest workers is quite hard; the citizens live much better.

UAE Citizens

UAE citizens themselves are called either Emirati, or Bani Yasi, or Suwaidi, or Al Shamsi, depending on the origin of the person from a particular tribe. Europeans used to call them Trushals or Trushal Coasters after the name of the region, Trushal Coast.

The majority of citizens are employed, only 10% of citizens are unemployed. The state has a policy of Emiratization. Its essence is the privilege of jobs to citizens. That is, a foreign worker only takes a place if there are no willing citizens. And even the employer is obliged to accept a citizen for a position if he wants it, at a higher salary. This policy is quite official in the UAE, and the authorities see nothing wrong with it.

Citizens enjoy many privileges, most in matters of education. From 20 to 25% of the national budget is spent on educational purposes. In addition, there are payments, subsidies, and interest-free loans to citizens. To put it simply, citizens in the UAE live well, you do not find them in the Dubai Metro, everyone has a car.

It is also an interesting fact that the UAE citizens do not speak the official language of their country at home. How this is possible, read our page "What language is spoken in the UAE".



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Becoming a citizen is possible, but ultra-difficult

The procedure for obtaining the citizenship of the Arab Emirates exists, but only theoretically. Procedures and conditions are regulated by laws: Federal Law 17 (1972) "On Citizenship and Passports", Federal Law 10 (1975) "Amendments to Law 17 of 1972", Decree 16 (2017) "Amendments to Law 17 of 1972".

In order to obtain citizenship, one must have lived legally in the Arab Emirates (any Emirate) for at least 30 years. In addition, one must not be convicted of a crime, have a good knowledge of the Arabic language, and refuse the citizenship(s) of other countries.

Then you have to prove your high legal income and level of education, and pass a security check. At the same time, the laws do not define in any way the exact level of income or level of education. That is, they can refuse ANYONE without giving a reason.

Citizenship reform January 30, 2021

On January 30, the Emirati press reported on a new reform. Now citizenship will be given to "talented and useful to the country foreigners" or simply very rich investors. Also announced the possibility not to give up their current citizenship.

It is only unclear what has changed? Citizenship was already given to scientists or athletes. Just check the composition of the UAE hockey team. Previously, the system of citizenship for the right people for the country worked in "manual mode", and since January 30, 2021 it continues to work in the same way.

In any case, the acquisition of UAE citizenship by foreigners (not of Arab nations) is an extraordinary event.

Have a nice vacation in the United Arab Emirates, and read our interesting pages about the country (see list of pages below).

TIPS

Tips for Tourists in the UAE

IMPORTANT FOR TOURISTS

What to Take for the UAE

What You Should Not Do in the UAE

To the UAE with Kids

Sharks in the UAE

Weather in the UAE by Month

Holidays in the UAE

Are Unmarried Young Women
Allowed to Enter the UAE?

All-Inclusive in the UAE

Power Sockets & Voltage in the UAE

Hotels in the UAE with Own Beach

GENERAL INFORMATION

The UAE - Info, Facts, Figures

What Language is Spoken in the UAE

Population and Citizens of the UAE

History of the UAE

Flag of the UAE

Friday and Weekend in the UAE

Ramadan in the UAE

Sheikh Zayed - Father of Nation

Sheikhs of the UAE

GIFTS AND CUSTOMS LAW

What to Bring from the UAE

What You Can and Not Bring In the UAE

What You Can and Not Take Out the UAE

VAT Refund in the UAE

Shopping in the UAE - Why is Cheap

Date Fruits in the UAE

Camel Milk and Dairy Products

Bakhoor and Oud

MONEY AND EXPENSES

Money in the UAE - Emirati Dirham

Currency Exchange in the UAE

How Much Money to Take to the UAE

Food Prices in the UAE

Tourist Taxes in the UAE

Alcohol in the UAE

Cigarettes and Smoking in the UAE

Vape and iQos in the UAE

TRANSPORT

Dubai Metro - Fares and Map

Taxi in the UAE - Fares and Guide

NOL Transport Card Dubai

Dubai Tram

Dubai Monorail

Buses in the UAE

FROM AIRPORT TO CITY

From Dubai Airport (DXB) to City

From Al Maktoum Airport (DWC) to City

From Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH) to City

From Sharjah Airport (SHJ) to City

TRIPS BETWEEN EMIRATES

From Dubai to Abu-Dhabi

Free Buses Dubai - Abu-Dhabi

From Sharjah to Dubai

From Ras Al-Khaimah to Dubai

From Ajman to Dubai

From Fujairah to Dubai

From Umm Al-Quwain to Dubai

TELECOM

Internet in the UAE

Cheap Calls from the UAE

Free SIM-card in Dubai

UAE Phone Codes

EMIRATES

Dubai

Deira

Bur Dubai

Dubai Marina

Jumeirah

Downtown

TOP Attractions in Dubai

Beaches in Dubai

Abu Dhabi

Al Ain

Yas Island

Beaches in Abu Dhabi

Sharjah

Beaches in Sharjah

Ajman

Ras Al Khaimah

Umm Al Quwain

Fujairah

ATTRACTIONS IN THE UAE

Best Attractions in the UAE

Free Attractions in the UAE

DUBAI

Burj Khalifa

Dubai Fountain

Excursions in Dubai

How to Save on Entertainment in Dubai

DUBAI MALL

The Best in Dubai Mall

Dubai Aquarium

Candylicious in Dubai Mall

Waterfall in Dubai Mall

DUBAI DEIRA

Gold Market in Dubai

Al Mamzar Beach and Park

Deira Clock Tower

City Centre Deira Mall

JUMEIRAH DISTRICT

Burj Al Arab

Wild Wadi Water Park

Jumeirah Mosque

Dubai Marina Mall

Madinat Jumeirah

Jumeirah Beach

PALM JUMEIRAH

Aquaventure

The Lost Chambers

Dolphin Bay

Palm Fountains

The View at the Palm

DUBAI PARKS AND RESORTS

LEGOLAND

MOTIONGATE

LEGOLAND Water Park

BLUEWATERS ISLAND

Ain Dubai

Madame Tussauds

BUR DUBAI

The Dubai Frame

Dubai Dolphinarium

Al Fahidi Fort Museum

Museum of the Future

DUBAI - SOUTH-EAST

Global Village

Miracle Garden

Butterfly Garden

IMG Worlds of Adventure

MALL OF THE EMIRATES

Mall of the Emirates

Ski Dubai

ABU DHABI CITY

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace

Observation Deck at 300

Sheikh Zayed Memorial

Heritage Village

Corniche Waterfront

Sir Bani Yas

YAS ISLAND

Ferrari World

Formula Rossa

Galleria Ferrari

Warner Bros Park

Yas WaterWorld

Yas Marina & Formula 1

Yas Mall

SHARJAH

Sharjah Fountains

Sharjah Aquarium

Museum of Islamic Civilization

Al Noor Mosque

Mega Mall

AJMAN

Ajman Fish Market

Ajman Fort and Museum

City Centre Ajman Mall

UMM AL QUWAIN

DreamLand Water Park

NATIONAL CUISINE

Emirati Cuisine - What to Taste

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