UAE Sustainable Social Development

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

Despite regional political chaos and social fiasco the United Arab Emirates has achieved sustainable social development pace during the last forty years. According to many regional and international reports (2011-2012) regarding human development index, the main social indicators of the UAE is positive, healthy and productive. Its levels of education (primary and higher), health, housing and easy supplies of drinking water have already surpassed all the regional economies.

Substantial Funds to Social Sector

Social development is one of the main pillars of the UAE visionary leadership priority since 1971. UAE has succeeded to achieve high GDP percentage due to impressive social development. It provides a balanced approach to UAE overall economic growth outlook. Keeping in view, its importance social sector has been allocated substantial funds in every federal budget. Social services, health care, education and housing sectors have been one of main recipients of federal budgets allocations. The UN hopes that UAE would be the first country to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the GCC and MENA region due to its various comprehensive social development programs.

Dividends of Social Development

The UAE national policies of social development is now paying its dividends in terms of highest levels of literacy rate, best health care system, highest enrollment in higher education, women empowerment (70 per cent of all university graduates four women members of the Cabinet and ambassadors), housing and water supplies in the region. According to the chairperson of the Emirates Business Women Council and of the Abu Dhabi Businesswomen Council (July, 2012), the number of Emirati businesswomen has crossed 13,000 who together control over 20,000 business establishments in the country.

Enhanced People’s Participation

Holding of 2nd Federal Council Elections has already increased people’s participation in the national decision making manifold in the UAE. UAE democratic model is progressive in its nature that supports its national requirements and real objectives. The UAE possesses the most successful federations of the world through which the state has softened all differences among all emirates and equal social development played important role in it.

Dreams come true

UAE social development brings dreams of qualitative life into reality. It is must for happier and comfortable life. According to TNS MENA, the world’s largest custom market research organization recently nation-wide conducted survey (August, 2012), citizens in the UAE believe that they enjoy a better quality of life than most of their European counterparts. UAE citizens high degree of satisfaction places it with elite golden league with a 90 plus score. Moreover, the UAE’s 91 per cent satisfaction rating also exceeds the all Europe Index at 75 per cent as well as those of other leading European nations such as Germany at 88 per cent, Belgium and the United Kingdom both scoring 87 per cent, France at 76 percent, Spain at 73 percent and Italy at 64 per cent among others.

Economic Significance of Social Development

In true economic terms, sustainable social development minimizes levels of discrimination in all segments of the society. It guarantees basic human rights. It protects people of the country from any national, regional or global socio-economic meltdown. It provides basic social nets to weaker sections of the society and treats them as par with others. UAE government has been engaged in building of schools, colleges, technical institutes, universities, research centers, health care units, hospitals, welfare outlets, housing schemes/apartments and easy and smooth supplies of drinking water in all the regions. Due their policies all the basic necessities of life is available even in far-flung areas in the UAE. UAE never experienced shortage of any commodity in the country due to its rigorous social development high standards.

Pace of Social Development and National Traditions

High levels of social development do not ignore its traditions and customs. It rather takes care about true spirits of brotherhood, community welfare, compassion and advocacy among the different segments of the society.

Main Indicators of Social Development

(a) Education

Education is must for achieving any socio-economic goal in the country. It is necessary to live a decent life in the ranks of nations. It provides an ideal platform for the giant leap and to reach out to Mars. UAE has surpassed all the regional countries in the field of education.

According to the QS World University Rankings (2012) the UAE University (UAEU) has placed in the top 50 world universities that were founded within the past 50 years, acknowledging the rapid pace of progress within both the United Arab Emirates and its national institution of higher education.

Among the top universities established since 1962, UAEU ranks in position 48, between Aston University, UK, and Griffith University, Australia. Both these universities, and in fact, most other top world universities, were founded earlier than 1976, the year in which the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan established UAEU.

Admissions in the UAE University (UAEU) and Zayed University (ZU), have increased places at their campuses in 2012. Admissions in the UAEU have increased to eight per cent, from 3,727 to 4014 while ZU admissions rose by 10 per cent, from 2,272 to 2,496. Three hundred and eighty students were also granted scholarships to study abroad.

According to Ministry of Education (2012), the number of Emirati students offered admission at the federal higher education institutions for 2012-2013 have increased by over a quarter from the last academic year. Moreover, a total of 14,570 students were offered places this year, a 26 per cent increase from last year’s 11,532.

Keeping in view, the importance of technical education, for the first time ever, and in a move aimed at supporting industrial manpower needs in the immediate future, about 3,520 male and female students were offered admissions at the Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute (Adveti) for the coming school year.

Historic Perspectives

Right from the beginning, education has been one of the main national priorities in the UAE. According to many official statistical figures and reports the first modern and structured school was established in the emirate of Sharjah in 1953 with assistance from Britain and Kuwait. Sharjah was also the first emirate to establish a school for girls. Abu Dhabi established its own schools in the 1960s. By 1966, there were four elementary schools for boys and one for girls, accommodating 528 students. By 1974, the number of schools, including private ones, had increased and accommodated more than 40,000 students, 30 percent of whom were females. Now, women are more than 50 percent enrollment in the higher education.

Educational Achievements/Facilities

Now, UAE is sitting at the apex of educational high standard in the region. More than 700,000 students attend the country’s 1,400 public schools and hundreds of private ones. Public schools are free for Emiratis but can be attended by expatriate for a very low fee. Secondary education is also free for nationals. Nationals use to go for studies in many famous universities of USA, EU and Fareast region. According to statistical year book (2008), over 14,000 students attended the national UAE University in 2007.

Availability of Internationally Recognized Universities

There are more than 65 international acclaimed universities local campus in the UAE where thousands of local students receive education. Now UAE has local campuses of the New York University, the Sorbonne, Michigan State and business-education leader INSEAD (Institut Europeen d’Administration des Affaires). Government grants scholarships to talented students for university and post-graduate education overseas. According to statistical year book (2011), 1,019 students were admitted to international universities worldwide, while 301 returned with BAs, MAs, and PhDs in 2009-2010. Due to its persistent country-wide national educational drive, the UAE has also succeeded in reaching an adult literacy level of 90 percent, matching that of the corporate world.

Teachers National Training Programs

Right from the beginning, more focus has been given to teacher training and psychological development because teacher’s ability and personal character plays very important role in the upbringing of the students. UAE government coined nationalization of the teaching pool and lessening the dependence on foreign human resources/expertise.

Education Strategy 2010-2020

In its education strategy of 2010-20, the Ministry of Education outlines the different policies for the overall education standards, well-being of the teachers and developing of leadership skills at teachers and students level. It highlights the importance of equitable recruitment system, human resource development, evaluation system and rise to technical education. The number of nationals in the pool is steadily rising, especially among males. The ministry of education hopes to recruit and train 10,000 public-school teachers by 2020.

Promotion of Girl-Child Education

One of the salient features of the UAE education strategy is to promote education among the girls-child. It has achieved country-wide appreciation. According to the last census, the ratio of literate women to men aged 15-24 years stood at 110. Moreover, the ratio of females to males in secondary education stood at 106.7, and in tertiary education at 181.

Due to diversified but integrated education policies/strategies, now, UAE has become one of the most advanced knowledge-based economy in the region and the globe as well. Moreover, UAE government is going to introduce compulsory educational levels, age of compulsory learning, and mechanisms for enforcing the legislation and appropriate penalties which would hopefully further enhance its drive of education in the days to come.

(b) Health

Health care facilities are the necessary parts of the social development in the country because healthy bodies provide health minds. It takes care about the life to flourish. It spreads hopes of survival, production and above all secured life.

National Priority

It has been one of the main national priorities of the UAE government. Since its inception, special attention has been given to nutrition, immunization and easy & smooth supplies of drinking water. Health care is free for all the nationals in the UAE. According to Federal Budget (2010), total health expenditure was 2.8 percent of GDP, equal to $1,756 per capita. According to statistical year book, life expectancy is 77 for males and 79 for females, with an under-five mortality rate of 7 per 1,000 (decrease from 17 in 1990). Access to clean water in urban and rural areas is assured for 100 percent of the population, and close to 100 percent use modern sanitation facilities

Health Care Installations

There are more than 26 government hospitals in the country. It has the capacity of almost 4,000 beds, over 2,000 specialized and over 1,000 public and private clinics throughout the country. Free health coverage is universal for locals and laws have been instituted to ensure mandatory health insurance for non-nationals. Government also provides health care facilities to hundreds of UAE nationals seeking medical attention and treatment overseas.

International Partnership

Different UAE medical institutions has collaborations and partnerships with internationally renowned medical institutions such as Sheikh Khalifa Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic, the Corniche Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, among others which are providing enhancing the professional skills.

(c) Employment

Generation of employment is the pre-requisite of the social development. It secures the future of labour force and youth as well. According to official data, the size of the labor force in the UAE was estimated at 2.6 million in 2005. Of these, Emirati nationals accounted for only 8.4 percent, or about 214,000 workers, 22 percent of whom were female. Such under-representation of Emirati nationals in the labor force has become one of the main issues. But government emiratization national employment program is making inroads in the country. Now, sectors like banking, service, media and teaching have greater employment from the Emiratis. Government has already made effective legislation for enhancing the hiring, presence and retention of nationals in the public and private sectors.

Emiratization Program

It is one the main salient features of Abul Dhabi Strategic Vision 2030. It was gradually initiated in the 1990s. Afterwards, more educated youth entered the local labor market. Further, diversification of economy and resource requires more educated and technical local experts. In order to achieve the desired goals of emiratization program more concrete efforts should be initiated at every level.

Housing Schemes

Housing is one of the main characteristics of any social development strategy/program. According to official data/policy there are three types of housing programs at the federal and local levels in the UAE. Sheikh Zayed Housing Program is the premier organization for funding. Emirate-specific and private organizations also provide assistance.

Types of Housing Programs Details
First It provides home loans and grants to nationals who own a piece of land, itself granted by the state.
Second It advances interest-free, long-term loans for nationals who can repay them
Third It provides free housing for low-income nationals.
Source: Ministry of Public Works

First class Infrastructure

UAE has already achieved high levels of efficacy in mega infrastructural development in the region. There are vast network of roads, bridges, airports, seaports, cultural facilities. The combination of all these facilities has made the UAE the most modern country in the region. It boasts five international airports, of which Dubai International is the largest and the fourth-busiest in the world, with passenger traffic of over 24 million for the year ending in June, 2011. It has also instituted a number of housing programs, both public and private, that have provided shelter and amenities to a large number of people in the different emirates.

Protection of Human Rights

There is no issue of human rights in UAE. UAE being the member of International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Arab Labor Organization (ALO), among other labor-focused multilateral organizations takes care about all kinds of human rights in the country. Moreover, UAE has ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and is committed to ratifying the accompanying protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. Federal Law 51 was enacted in 2006, requiring strong punitive measures against all forms of human trafficking. Moreover, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking was established in 2007 to coordinate anti-human-trafficking efforts at all levels. Efforts were coordinated with UNICEF for this particular purpose. It has also taken initiatives in fighting human trafficking and was instrumental in the establishment of a program known as the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIFT).

Concluding Remarks

UAE sustainable social development has supplemented its rapidly upward moving macro-economy. Now sectors other than oil are greatly contributing in the GDP i.e. education, service, tourism, infrastructure and above all knowledge-based economy.

Social development is must for achieving a balanced economic growth in the country because; human happiness comes from the high levels of social development not mere maintaining stable economic growth. Comfort, satisfaction, motivation, and elimination of gender discrimination guarantee with the high pace of social development. It defeats diseases and achieve immunity against all kinds of social ills.

United Arab Emirates has initiated effective policy measures which have made it one of the best places to live forever. Its high standards of education, health facilities, housing and clean drinking water has made life easier for its people even living in far-reaching areas throughout the emirate. Social development has increased political participation and awareness manifold. It has given a golden opportunity to its youth to excel in every productive channel.

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