Visa reforms, economy make UAE most desirable country to live in for 11th year: Arab Youth Survey

The country's respect for the region’s cultural traditions, the quality of its education system, the ease of starting a business, and low taxes are among other factors that attract young Arabs


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Wed 21 Sep 2022, 11:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 21 Sep 2022, 2:25 PM

Arab youth have named the UAE the country they would most like to live in for the 11th consecutive year.

Nearly two-thirds of the 3,400 young Arabs polled across the Middle East and North Africa in the 14th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey listed the UAE (57 per cent) as the most desirable place to live in, significantly outranking the United States, Canada, France, and Germany.

The popularity of the UAE as an ideal place to live reached its highest point since the Arab Youth Survey began asking the question in 2012. That year, 33 per cent of respondents said the Emirates was the country they preferred to live in, followed by France and the US.

The appeal of the UAE is spread across the Mena region, with 51 per cent of North African youth saying it was their preferred country, followed by the US (24 per cent).

The UAE was the number one choice of Levant youth (57 per cent), followed by Canada (31 per cent) — and the preferred country to live in of 63 per cent of GCC nationals, followed by the US (19 per cent).

For the 11th year running, the UAE is also the country most young Arabs want their own to be like. The model nation for 37 per cent of Arab youth overall, the country ranked ahead of the US (22 per cent), Canada (18 per cent), Germany (14 per cent), France (11 per cent) and Turkey (11 per cent).

Growing UAE economy, a significant draw for Arab youth

The top five attractions of the UAE are its growing economy (27 per cent), its safe and secure environment (26 per cent), and its generous salary packages. Other attractions are the wide range of work opportunities it provides (cited by 22 per cent of interviewees); and the country’s effective leadership (17 per cent).

The UAE’s respect for the region’s cultural traditions, the quality of its education system, the ease of starting a business, and low taxes were other attractions.

Sunil John, president for Mena at BCW and founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “As the region’s model nation for the 11th straight year, the UAE continues to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for young Arab men and women across the Middle East and North Africa.”

“The enduring popularity of the UAE is a testament to the visionary leadership of the UAE, which staged one of the most successful World Expos in the event’s history – despite the global disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – and is now preparing to host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in November 2023.”

John stated, “What is perhaps most telling is that the UAE scores highly on all the issues that Arab youth said were most important to them in our research, such as job opportunities, education quality and the preservation of the region’s cultural traditions and values.”

Youth welcome the nation’s new visa reforms

According to the survey, most Emirati youths have welcomed the UAE’s new directives for sustainable growth.

More than nine in 10 (94 per cent) say they approve of the recent introduction of more extended residence visas for expatriates and new rules to obtain them more easily.

Eighty-four per cent support the decision to allow expatriates to own onshore companies fully; 83 per cent approve of the soon-to-be-introduced corporation tax, and nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) accept adopting a Monday-to-Friday working week.

Moreover, more than half (54 per cent) say they accept the right of unmarried couples to live together.


Emirati youth universally optimistic

Most Arab youths say their best days lie ahead, but Emirati youth are particularly optimistic, with 91 per cent saying their best days lie ahead of them. All are saying the country’s economy is going in the right direction.

Nearly half of the UAE citizens (48 per cent) interviewed in the study said it was easy to find a job.

While undoubtedly privileged compared with their fellow Arabs in other countries, Emiratis are not oblivious to the challenges facing the region, with 45 per cent identifying rising living costs as its most significant obstacle, followed by unemployment (27 per cent) and climate change (18 per cent).

Religion and nationality are critical to personal identity

A third of Emirati respondents each (33 per cent) said their religion and nationality were most important to their identity, compared with 41 per cent of Arab youth who cited their religion as key.

Like their Arab peers around the region, a clear majority of young Emiratis (75 per cent) say it is more important to preserve the Arab world’s religious and cultural identity than to create a more globalised society.

However, while 55 per cent of Arab youth say the Arabic language is less important to them than it is to their parents, half of young Emiratis say the opposite.

The near-universal acceptance of gender equality counterbalances the apparent conservatism of Emirati youth. Nearly nine in 10 (89 per cent) UAE citizens say men and women have equal rights, while 84 per cent say they have the same employment opportunities.

For the full findings of the 14th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, log on to

The annual survey was conducted among Arab youth across 50 cities in 17 states in the MENA region from May 13 to June 16 this year, using face-to-face interviews conducted by professional interviewers.

The interviews were completed in Arabic and English with young Arab men and women, exclusively young nationals in each state. The sample split was 50:50 male/female.

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