United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates

Statistical Snapshot



The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates, located in the southeast region of the Arabian Peninsula. The country’s population is estimated at 9.9 million,[1] with the majority of the population living in urban areas at a rate of 86.5 percent.[2] UAE is home to the fifth largest migrant population in the world, with international migrant stock accounting for 87.9 percent of the total population.[3] Given the country’s reliance on foreign workers, the working age group of 15-64 makes up the highest share of the total population at 84.1 percent.[1]


UAE scores the highest on the Human Development Index among Arab countries. At 0.890 (2019), the Emirates is positioned among the very high human development group— ranking 31st out of 189 countries and territories. Life expectancy at birth reached 78 in 2019, compared to a regional average of 72.1 years. UAE’s expected years of schooling stood at 14.3, also higher than the regional average of 12.1 years but lower than the average of countries in the very high HDI group, at 16.3 years.[4] UAE had also recorded high economic ranking in international indices which helped in attracting investment, as a result of an increase in investors’ confidence.[5]


The economy has been recovering gradually from the 2015-2016 slowdown caused by sharp fall in oil prices. Higher crude oil production and the increase in oil prices in 2018 has resulted in an increase in hydrocarbon GDP growth to 2.5 percent in 2018, up from -3.5 percent in 2017. On the other hand, the non-hydrocarbon sector grew at a sluggish 0.7 percent, compared to a growth of 4.8 percent in 2017, owing to the slowdown in non-oil sectors. As a result, real GDP growth was estimated at 1.2 percent in 2018.[5]


In response, the authorities announced reforms in 2018 to boost non-oil growth, promote innovation, improve the competitiveness of the business environment, strengthen the role of the private sector, privatize nonstrategic government-related enterprises (GREs), and improve the ecosystem for SME development. In 2018, the hydrocarbon sector constituted 32 percent of GDP, down from 38 percent in 2010. Over the same period, the share of high-technology exports almost tripled. In 2019, higher hydrocarbon growth at 3.4 percent, coupled by a slower growth of non-hydrocarbon GDP at 1 percent, resulted in an overall real GDP growth of 1.7 percent.[5]


Due to the introduction of a five percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on 1 January 2018, inflation increased from 2 percent in 2017 to 3.1 percent in 2018.[6]

However, as a result of the fading effect of the VAT, the appreciation of the Dirham, the drop in energy prices and the fall in rents, UAE’s Consumer Price Index declined by 1.9 percent in 2019, recording a negative reading for the first time since the Index was first reported by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) in 2009.[5]

Nationals are increasingly encouraged to seek employment in the private sector. The 2017 labor force survey shows that 75 percent of the non-Emiratis are employed in the private sector, in comparison to only 7.3 percent in the governmental sector, while 8.2 percent of the Emiratis work in the private, compared to 83.2 percent in the governmental sector. According to the latest national published data, the total unemployment rate is 2.5 percent. The economic participation of women in the labor market remains low at 52.7 percent compared to 92.8 percent for men.[7]

The spread of COVID-19, coupled with travel restrictions and the collapse in oil prices had considerable impact on oil revenues, trade and tourism, with international hotel guests in Abu Dhabi falling by 47 percent y-o-y in March.  The authorities have announced about 32 billion United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) ($ 8.7 billion or 2.8 percent of GDP) in various fiscal measures which includes AED 16 billion ($4.4 billion) approved by the federal government, AED 6.8  billion in measures by the government of Dubai, and AED 9 billion ($2.5 billion) announced by the government of Abu Dhabi as part of the ongoing “Ghadan-21” fiscal stimulus program.[8]  According to the IMF estimates, growth is to drop down to -6.5 percent and fiscal deficit to deteriorate in 2020 to -9.8 percent of GDP. By 2022, growth is expected to reach 2.2 percent; supported by the government’s recovery plans, higher oil prices and a boost from Dubai Expo2021.[6]

It is worth mentioning that the United Arab Emirates is among the top 5 countries worldwide regarding the vaccination process [9] and the total vaccine doses administered is approximately 6 million as of the start of March 2021.[10]



This overview was last updated in March 2021. Priority is given to the latest available official data published by national statistical offices and/or public institutions.


[1] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2019. World Population Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at: https://population.un.org/wpp/ [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[2] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat.2018. World Urbanization Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at: https://population.un.org/wup/ [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[3] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). 2019. Population Division. International Migrant Stock. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimates19.asp [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[4] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2020. Human Development Report 2020.  Country Profiles, United Arab Emirates. [ONLINE] Available at: http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/ARE.pdf [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[5] Central Bank of the UAE. 2020. Annual Report 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.centralbank.ae/en/publications [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[6] International Monetary Fund. October 2020. World Economic Outlook. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2020/01/weodata/index.aspx [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[7] Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority. 2018. UAE in Numbers. [ONLINE] Available at: https://fcsa.gov.ae/en-us/Pages/Media/Publications.aspx#?id1=1&id2=4 [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[8] International Monetary Fund (IMF). Policy Responses to COVID-19. 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19#U [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[9] Oxford University. Our World in Data, Vaccination. 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations [Accessed 1 March 2021].

[10] The Supreme Council for National Security, National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, UAE Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates. 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: https://covid19.ncema.gov.ae/en [Accessed 1 March 2021].

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Data Highlights

  • The country relies heavily on its large oil and natural gas resources to support its economy and is considered a major oil producer and exporter. In 2016, UAE produced 1.1 billion barrels of crude oil up from 693.6 million barrels in 2002. In addition, the UAE exported 2.41 million barrel per day of crude oil in 2016.

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