x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Family time is a key to happiness, survey shows

Most expatriates say that life is better in the UAE than in their home countries, but westerners least likely to be with relatives.

The National's YouGov survey paints a portrait of a family-centric nation that enjoys the good life despite often stressful jobs and gripes about issues including housing and education. Emiratis spend by far the most time with their families, with 40 per cent saying they spend five or more hours with them every day, the survey found.

By contrast, only nine per cent of westerners spent that much time with their families. Women (32pc) were more likely than men (21pc) to spend more than five hours a day with their family. As well as being the most likely to have no family here (24pc), those westerners who did have families in the UAE were far more likely to spend relatively little time with them, with a quarter spending two hours or less together a day. Just nine per cent of Emiratis, and 13 per cent of Arab expatriates, did likewise.

Similarly, Emiratis were most likely to sit down with their families for a meal, with more than three quarters (77pc) doing so at least once a day, and half doing so more than that. Three in five Arab expatriates ate a meal with their families once or more a day, and a similar number of Asians (61pc), compared with just 43 per cent of westerners. The most marked difference was between the patterns of westerners and everyone else when it came to spending time with their families in their own countries.

Arab expatriates (42pc) and Asians (43pc) were just as likely as Emiratis (40pc) to spend more than five hours with their families when in their home countries - just one in five westerners did the same. More than a third of westerners said that when in their home country, they spent less than two hours a day with their families. Most expatriates (63pc) said their life here was better than it had been in their home country, with Arab expatriates (24pc) and Asians (18pc) most likely to rate it as much better, compared with nine per cent of westerners. More westerners took a negative view 26 per cent said life was worse or much worse, against 13 per cent of Arab expatriates and 18 per cent of Asians.

Most (62pc) said they had less free time in the UAE than at home especially Asians (68pc) and Arab expatriates (59pc). Westerners (36pc) were more likely than Arab expatriates (19pc) or Asians (10pc) to say they had about the same amount of free time as at home. Men in particular were busier, with 68 per cent saying they had less free time here, against 52 per cent of women. Parents were generally happy with leisure facilities for their children; three in five (58pc) said they were good or extremely good. Again, Emiratis were happiest with the facilities, with 72 per cent saying they were good or extremely good, and just six per cent rating them as poor or extremely poor. Arab expatriates and Asians were also happy with the leisure facilities for children, but westerners notably less so, with just 38 per cent saying they were good or extremely good and 31 per cent saying they were poor or extremely poor.

Emiratis were also notably more enthusiastic than other groups about the quality of education, with 27 per cent rating the nation's schools as extremely good. Asians were not nearly as satisfied - 22 per cent rated education as poor or very poor. Abu Dhabi's schools were more highly regarded than those in other emirates, with 53 per cent of those in the capital rating them as good or very good, against 40 per cent in Dubai and similar figures elsewhere. The finding follows problems with education for Indians and Pakistanis. Indians face a severe shortage of places when their new school year starts next month, and many of the schools that are open are run in villas. Abu Dhabi Education Council says these schools 12 of the 17 Indian schools in the capital will shut by 2012. Ray Chaudhuri, a long-time UAE resident whose son attends an Indian school in Dubai, broadly agreed with the survey's findings.

Mr Chaudhuri, who runs a shipping business, said too many schools were focused on making a profit. "They are so focused on their cash flow and their infrastructure, on the business, [that] they forget the most principle aspect the quality of teachers," he said. Teachers in Asian schools were grossly underpaid, he added. One administrator of an Indian school in Abu Dhabi, who asked not to be named, said he was not surprised to hear that parents were unhappy with the quality of Asian schools. A serious shortage of Indian schools had led to overcrowded classrooms, he said. "When all the Asian schools are packed to the brim, of course the standards will go down," he said. "It's bound to happen."

Discipline in schools was highly regarded, with four in five rating it average or better. However, some Arab expatriates and Asians found imposing discipline harder here than in their home countries (45pc and 36pc). Despite the greater distance, westerners made more return visits to their home countries, with 84 per cent going home at least once a year, against 59 per cent of Arab expatriates and 68 per cent of Asians. Some 13 per cent of western expatriates said they made more than two return visits each year, compared with just seven per cent of Arab expatriates and six per cent of Asians. ksmith@thenational.ae klewis@thenational.ae

How would you rate your quality of life in the UAE?
Extremely poor 2 %
Poor 8 %
Average 33 %
Good 42 %
Extremely good 15 %

How would you rate your quality of life in the UAE, compared with your home country?
Nationality Better Worse
Arab expatriates 69 % 13 %
Westerners 49 % 26 %
Asians 61 % 18 %

How much time do you spend with your family?
Nationality <1 hr 1-2 2-3 3-4 4-5 >5 hr 0/ No family
Everyone 7 9 17 16 10 25 10
Emiratis 3 6 13 17 6 40 16
Westerners 9 16 18 11 13 9 24

For all the survey results go to www.thenational.ae/yougov