x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Emirates a draw for Arab women

More than one in eight Arab women want to migrate to the UAE, according to a new study.

More than one in eight Arab women want to migrate to the UAE, according to a new study.

While eight per cent of Arab men planning to migrate named the UAE as their top destination, the proportion was higher among women at 13 per cent.

They cited the country's tolerance and the potential for a comfortable, independent life.

Overall, more Arab men than women dreamed of leaving their home countries. More than a third (37 per cent) said they intended to leave their homeland, compared to 24 per cent of the women surveyed.

Even so, the authors of the study, Voices of Young Arabs, considered that number high enough for gender to "be considered in international migration policies and procedures". The study was a partnership between Silatech, a Doha-based initiative designed to create jobs and economic opportunities for young Arabs, and Gallup, a global polling and consulting firm.

When they did migrate, the priorities of men and women were very different, the survey found. While men were happy to follow the money - leading many to Saudi Arabia - women tended to be looking for a better quality of life. They prized factors such as community, health, education, and a clean environment.

Emiratis were among the least likely of those surveyed to leave their home country, with just two per cent saying they wanted to live elsewhere.

The study interviewed 17,643 people aged 15 to 29 in 19 Arab League countries. Of those, more than 10,000 were living in their home countries.

Amr Nasr, a 29-year-old Egyptian bachelor, said the salary he earned in Saudi Arabia was much higher than that he could earn in his home country. "To start a new home, and get married, you need a lot of money," he said. "I do not care where I am as long as my salary is high. People who work in Saudi are seen as rich in my country." Meanwhile, Hajar Nasr, 24, who is also from Egypt, considered working in Saudi Arabia but rejected it because the laws there made "living for a woman on her own near to impossible". She said she was looking for a job in the UAE. Tasneem al Masri, 25, who hails from the Palestinian Territories, was also looking for work in the UAE "in any field". "I know people there, and it is easier to live there than other Arab countries for a girl on her own," she said. "Although I have friends and relatives here [in the Palestinian Territories] whom I love, I need to move on. I need a change and a sense of security, even if I am on my own." The survey found that many women linked satisfaction with the "beauty of their cities". Iman al Sallal, 23, said she dreaded returning from Al Ain to her home country, Yemen, during the holidays. "The roads aren't clean like here," she said. "If I had to pick between the two places, I would definitely pick the UAE." The study concluded that women are not "running toward something as much as they are running away from something else". Countries that were at risk of losing young women needed to consider investing "in community development, not just focusing on improving the job climate", the study said. The countries that the majority of those surveyed said they wanted to leave were African nations that had a dearth of jobs with good wages and that offered only limited services. More than two in five young people in Mauritania (42 per cent) and Tunisia (44 per cent) said they wanted to live elsewhere. In the Comoros islands, the figure was 58 per cent. Young people in the UAE, by contrast, were happier than everywhere else except Kuwait. In both countries, just two per cent said they wanted to live and work in other countries. "Young Emiratis are doing exceptionally well overall," the report stated. "They express satisfaction with their communities and the economy and have little desire to leave the United Arab Emirates. In terms of overall life evaluation, young Emiratis fare among the best in the region. There are many factors that contribute to young Emiratis' positive life evaluation." Nine out of 10 Emiratis were satisfied with their city or area, 73 per cent said their communities were improving and 83 per cent would recommend their city or area as a place to live. Overall, Saudi Arabia was the top choice of those wanting to live elsewhere, and was named by 15 per cent of those who said they intended to leave their home country. Other countries on the desirable list were the US (14 per cent), France (11 per cent), the UAE (10 per cent), Britain (6 per cent) and Italy (5 per cent).

osalem@thenational.ae