ABU DHABI // Most Emiratis and Arab expatriates feel positive about their lives and the social services they receive, a new survey has found.
Nearly 6 in 10 are "thriving" and about 9 in 10 are happy in the area where they live, though only half think enough affordable housing is available.
About 8 in 10 are satisfied with health care and education, according to the survey report entitled The United Arab Emirates at 40: A Success Story.
Fewer people were classified as thriving in other Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League nations, 48 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. "Thriving" is defined as rating the current situation at 7 or higher and the five-year outlook 8 or higher, on a scale of 0 to 10.
"The high level of well-being among so many UAE residents is a distinct advantage for the country - something that could keep it stable at a time of regional upheaval and help it to attract the outside talent it needs for economic development," the report said.
Reliable social services and utilities contributed to Emiratis and Arabs' sense of well-being. "The high percentage of people thriving in the UAE clearly owes something to the resources the Government has invested in the services that people see and use in their daily lives," the report said.
Nearly 9 in 10 said they were happy with their health, despite the rising incidence of obesity and heart disease.
About 9 in 10 also said they were pleased with efforts to preserve the environment, although the UAE has one of the world's largest carbon footprints.
Respondents are becoming more satisfied with air quality (from 73 per cent in 2009 to 87 per cent in 2011) and water quality (73 per cent to 83 per cent).
Satisfaction levels have risen even more for public transport (54 per cent in 2009 to 84 per cent in 2011) and roads (66 per cent to 90 per cent).
Congestion also eased during this time, particularly in Dubai, which probably improved perceptions, said Mohamed Younis, a senior analyst at Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre, which carried out the survey.
The roads system and other infrastructure and services will have to improve to keep pace with rising population levels, the report said. The supply of affordable housing already seems to be strained.
Emiratis' satisfaction level with the availability of affordable housing fell from 60 per cent in 2009 to 51 per cent in 2011. During the same period, among Arabs, it hovered around 45 per cent, though it dipped in 2010 to 35 per cent.
The biggest decline in satisfaction was in Abu Dhabi, from 66 per cent in 2009 to 50 per cent in 2011.
"Growth is a point of pride for this maturing country," the report said. "It will also pose a test as the UAE is called upon to deliver infrastructure and social services on an increasingly larger scale."
Satisfaction levels differed by emirate in other areas as well.
Abu Dhabi had among the lowest ratings for education (74 per cent), above Sharjah (71 per cent) but below Dubai and the other emirates (84 per cent).
But Abu Dhabi had the highest levels of satisfaction for air and water quality (91 per cent and 94 per cent respectively). Dubai ranked second (91 per cent and 84 per cent). Sharjah was last (74 per cent, 70 per cent), behind the other emirates (88 per cent and 72 per cent).
Abu Dhabi also had the highest proportion of people (84 per cent) who said they were unlikely to move elsewhere.
Dubai was lowest (62 per cent), followed by Sharjah (72 per cent) and the other emirates (79 per cent).
Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre polled about 5,100 Emiratis and Arab expatriates for the survey from 2009 to 2011.
Tomorrow, an in-depth look at the survey's findings on housing