Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

UAE report celebrates milestones while setting new ones

Progress report hails successes while acting as a clarion call for future development

Offices and homes on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Offices and homes on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Chris Whiteoak / The National

In 1975, the UAE's workforce numbered around 300,000; today it surpasses 6.4 million. Back then, 1,000 Emirati women worked; today that number is 135,000. In the last two decades, life expectancy has risen by six years. All this and more is revealed by the latest UAE Human Development Report, which sheds light on the extremely rapid growth of a nation, from infancy to being a world leader in numerous fields. The fact that the wider Middle East is so riven with political instability, conflict and economic strife makes the UAE’s achievements all the greater. Its score on the human development index – calculated based on schooling, living standards and life expectancy – ranks the nation on a par with Spain, Portugal and Italy. The study by United Arab Emirates University in conjunction with the UN reflects how an accelerated economic growth has been matched by improvements in human development. Today the UAE is among the best providers of health and education services in the region while technology and competitiveness is ensuring those facilities can compete with the best in the world. Emirati children are being trained for a future in artificial intelligence, space exploration and the internet of things, producing a generation of tech-savvy young graduates prepared to embrace the future.

Yet while the Human Development Report is cause for celebration, it also provides an opportunity by offering pointers on the direction the country needs to take to grasp the next stages of its development. The study notes that the strides taken by Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been greater than those in other parts of the country, particularly the northern emirates. As the UAE grows and matures, steps must be taken to ensure that nobody is left behind. As these pages and the report have clarified, there is a need to increase the attractiveness of private sector jobs to citizens, particularly with nearly two-thirds of unemployed Emiratis under the age of 30. Meanwhile, a separate report from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers states that another 175,000 classroom places are needed by 2021 to cater to increasing demand from parents.

In light of the report, those living in the UAE should take heart from the fact there are more opportunities and privileges than ever before as the country continues to develop in strength and stature. But the report also reveals the work that needs to be done at this juncture to take the country towards its next phase of development to build a knowledge economy not solely dependent on oil. Given the raft of enlightened recent reforms, among them the introduction of VAT and the announcement of long-term visas, it is a clarion call to which the leaders of the UAE are already responding.