x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Emiratis buck the trend on birth rate

Worldwide fertility rates are declining, but Abu Dhabi enjoys steady population growth.

ABU DHABI // The number of children born to Emiratis in the capital is holding steady compared with falling worldwide fertility rates - a trend doctors attribute to financial stability, government support and culture.

The crude birth rate - the number of children born for every 1,000 people - in the emirate has dropped by more than a quarter over the past 10 years, but the number of children born to nationals has fallen far more slowly, according to the Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi.

The overall birth rate declined from 20.79 for every 1,000 people in 2001 to 15.01 in 2010.

The rates for nationals were much higher. In 2001 there were 35.43 for every 1,000 and 31.43 in 2010.

This is a drop of 27.8 per cent overall and less than half of that - 11.3 per cent - for nationals.

Worldwide, the estimated crude birth rate is 19.15 births for every 1,000 people.

"There is a decline but not a major one," said Dr Asma Al Mannaie, head of the surveillance section at Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad), which provided the data.

"There are lots of efforts here to encourage and promote stable families in the UAE," said Dr Al Mannaie. "For us, it is important to maintain our population. It is one of the resources of our country."

Non-citizens in Abu Dhabi are having far fewer children than Emiratis. The 2010 crude birth rate for expatriates was 10.34.

Worldwide crude birth rates and fertility rates - the average number of children born to one woman - have been steadily decreasing as more women delay marriage and couples have fewer children.

In Abu Dhabi, the fertility rate for Emiratis is 3.36 children for each woman. This compares with 1.62 for expatriates.

"Expatriates are not coming to the UAE to start families," said Dr Al Mannaie. "They are coming to work, so their rates will be much lower."

Although the fertility rate had slightly declined for citizens in recent years, she said the population was still growing.

Dr Mohammed El Sheikh, a gynaecologist with his own practice and a former senior consultant for Corniche Hospital, did not believe population decline would become a problem in the region.

"It is just the culture of the people to have big families," said Dr El Sheikh. "It's more cultural than financial. Arabs, Muslims, they like to have big families."

The report also showed that crude birth rates were highest in Al Ain, at 33.2 births for every 1,000. Al Gharbia recorded the lowest rate, at 17.1.

In 2010, there were 29,528 live births in the emirate, up 23.2 per cent from 2001. Emirati births made up 46.2 per cent of those.

Male babies slightly outnumber females, with 104.4 born for every 100 females.

"Economics are changing and women are going to work, getting a degree or having many ambitions, but we are happy to see the numbers on the rise," said Dr Al Mannaie. "It's important because we need to maintain our workforce."

Births in the capital have more than quadrupled since 1975, when only 6,854 live births were recorded.

jthomas@thenational.ae