When you see the incredible wealth and ostentatious lifestyles of some mega-rich Emiratis, it is easy to conflate that into a narrative describing all citizens. The magnificent architecture and some of the developments available for all to see only reinforce the perception that the citizens are very rich.
Not all Emiratis are rich, but more than 95% of Emirati citizens enjoy higher living standards than citizens in other countries. The United Arab Emirates has access to more than 10% of the world’s known oil and gas reserves, making this county the third richest globally.
The Emiratis have the third highest Gross Domestic Product Per Capita globally. It enables the governments to provide great assistance to their citizens, including free healthcare, tax-free earnings, etc.
Emiratis Are Generally Well Off
While not all Emiratis are millionaires, the wealth in the nation is spread fairly evenly.
The Gini coefficient is a scale designed to measure the amount of inequality that exists in a population.
The country with the lowest Gini Coefficient (the least number of inequalities) is Ukraine at 25%, and the one with the highest inequality rate is South Africa at 63%.
On this scale, the United Arab Emirates comes in 6th lowest level of inequality and scores an impressive 26%.
It means a better wealth and services distribution amongst the Emiratis than the other 148 countries globally.
With a Gross Domestic Product per capita of US$41,000.00 (2021), the UAE ranks in the top three wealthiest countries in the world, after Luxembourg at number two and Qatar at number one.
The following are interesting statistics regarding UAE’s wealth.
- Residents in the UAE collectively have net assets of US$925 billion.
- Of this, US$470 billion (51%) is held by High Nett Worth Individuals.
- There are 13 individuals with a Net Asset value of US$1 billion or more living in the UAE.
- Two hundred forty people have a Nett Asset Value of US$100 million or more.
- Approximately 3,800 of the nation’s residents have a wealth of more than US$2 million.
- There are approximately 88,700 people with a net asset value of $1 million or more.
- The average UAE citizen has net assets of US$99,000. It is significantly higher than the worldwide average.
- The unemployment rate is only 2.4%.
Despite the impressive numbers, approximately 19.5 percent of the population lives in poverty.
The two main centers, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, control over 83% of the UAE’s wealth. The other five emirates’ members depend on the UAE federal government for financial support.
While government aid for individuals is available, it is only granted after a full financial analysis has been conducted. The value of the family’s income, properties, the ratio of family members to rooms, rent, and health statuses are evaluated.
An underreported 16.9% of the population struggles with an income below $22 a day.
Of these, 7.2% are Emirati citizens, which works out at 1.21% of Emiratis (as opposed to non-Emirati residents) live below the poverty line
How Did The Emiratis Get So Rich?
The UAE comprises seven sheikdoms that merged to form the federation between 2 December 1971 and 10 February 1972.
The states which make up the federation are:
- Abu Dhabi
- Umm Al Quwain
- Ras al Khaimah
Originally brought together in 1820 under British colonial rule, the General Maritime Treaty of 1820 brought a period of peace and prosperity to the region.
Significant oil discoveries were made in 1966.
In 1968, the British decided to give up its control, forming the treaty.
The newfound wealth was put to various uses, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi being the most forward-thinking and prosperous.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the wealthiest and arguably the most important areas.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the erstwhile ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, has been particularly forward-thinking in his vision for Dubai.
It is interesting to note that while oil accounted for 24% of Dubai’s Gross Domestic Product in 1990, it only accounts for 1% of GDP sourced from oil, with the remaining 99% coming from:
- Gold trading market.
- Tourism where tourists spend more in Dubai than in any other country.
- The airport carries the third-largest passenger volumes and is the world’s busiest airport by international passenger traffic.
- Deepwater shipping port called Port Rashid.
- The Dubai International Financial Centre Tax-Free zone
- Real Estate
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the Emirati Federation.
Abu Dhabi thus holds 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves (98.2bn barrels) and almost 5% of the world’s natural gas (5.8 billion cubic meters or 200 billion cubic feet).
Revenue from oil accounts for 86% of Abu Dhabi’s Gross Domestic Product.
While Abu Dhabi has a broadening revenue base from diversified activities like tourism, the majority remains petrodollar-based. In 2009 Abu Dhabi started to invest in non-oil revenue-producing activities, including.
- Etihad airline
- Real estate
- Tax-Free Zone for residents
- The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), valued at US$875 billion, is the world’s wealthiest sovereign fund in terms of total asset value.
The aim is for the economy to have reduced its dependency on oil to 30% by 2030.
Is There Any Government Assistance Available For Citizens?
The level of government assistance that Emiratis enjoy are unachievable in all but a few very wealthy nations.
- Citizens are charged no tax.
- Citizens benefit from free high-quality health care.
- Fuel is subsidized.
- The government provides generous funded retirement plans.
- The government provides access to land for the building of homes with interest-free loans.
- Free higher education, even when pursued abroad.
To assist with the cost of getting married, the government gives Emirati men 70,000 dirhams ($19,000) when they marry an Emirati woman.
A debt settlement fund provides a one-time bailout to entrepreneurs who need it.
On some occasions, the UAE’s rulers have paid the debts of Emirati nationals ahead of major holidays.
While not all Emirati are millionaires, a larger percentage of the population are High Net Worth individuals, and the assistance that the government provides to Emirati’s are quite extraordinary.
The oil revenues that the country earns are being actively used to improve the life of the Emirati citizens and change the proportion of the GDP from being primarily oil-based into a more balance broad sector market.