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United Arab Emirates

Basic Information

Area: 83,600 km²

Calling code: +971

Population: 5,402,375

Official Language: Arabic

Time zone: GMT+4 (UTC+4), Local time: 19:23


The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, consist of a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm al-Quwain and Ras al-Khaimah. All emirates are situated on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle-East. The UAE shares its borders with Saudi Arabia to the south, and Oman to the east, and it has 1,318km of coastline along the Persian Gulf. Its total territory spans 83,600km, with the capital city and largest emirate being Abu Dhabi, which covers over 86% of the UAE’s total area, while the second largest emirate, Dubai, covers just 5%.

The UAE has a total population of 4.87 million, 78% of which live in urban areas, the remaining residents mainly inhabit small towns on the outskirts of the cities, or in one of the many large desert oilfield camps. The most populated emirate is Dubai which has 1.59 million inhabitants, followed by Abu Dhabi and Sharjah which have populations of 1.55 million and 942,000 respectively.

The UAE is a member of several international organizations which allow it to trade freely with Asia, Europe and the Americas, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Currency used is the Emirate Dirham (U.A.E).


The discovery of oil some 30 years ago has helped transform the UAE from a desert state into an advanced region, with a high GDP per capita figure of $42,000. Abu Dhabi alone has 9% of the worlds oil reserves and holds 95% of all oil in the UAE, along with an abundance of other natural resources such as natural gas. Industry accounts for over 48.6% of the total GDP figure of $201.4 billion, with petrochemicals, fishing, construction materials, and textiles all being prominent industries.

The service sector has boomed, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with service related industries now generating over half of the total GDP for the UAE. Free Trade Zones offer both 100% foreign ownership along with zero taxes, and have attracted a wealth of foreign investment, particularly in the financial sectors.

Agriculture has been replaced with new high-tech and service related industries, however it still employs 7% of the workforce and contributes 1% of the GDP. Agricultural land is primarily used for producing dates, vegetables and watermelons.

In 2009, the UAE imported $141 billion worth of goods, mainly machinery and transportation equipment, food and chemicals. Exports in 2009 amounted to $174 billion, 45% of which was accounted for by crude oil. Export partners include Japan, South Korea, India, Iran and Thailand.


The major cities in the UAE generally have a well developed and modern transportation infrastructure, with travel possible by air, road and rail. The UAE has a total of 41 airports, with Dubai International Airport and the Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) being the major hubs for transportation between Asia and Europe. Dubai Airport now stands as the 15th busiest in the world, handling over 40 million passengers annually, while Abu Dhabi Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the world.

The UAE has a total of 4,080km of paved roads, which link each area to its neighbouring emirates. Traffic congestion became a problem on the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, to solve this issue a new metro system has recently opened, which currently has 21 stations and can accommodate over 1 million passengers a day.

The UAE owns 58 merchant marine, which include cargo carriers, chemical and petroleum tankers and passenger ships. There are 5 major ports which are mainly used for importing and exporting of cargo, they are Mina' Zayid (Abu Dhabi), Al Fujayrah, Mina' Jabal 'Ali (Dubai), Mina' Rashid (Dubai), Mina' Saqr (Ra's al Khaymah) and Khawr Fakkan (Sharjah).


The UAE has a labourforce of 3.16 million, 78% of which work in the service sector, 15% in industry and 7% in agriculture. It is home to a large number of foreign nationals, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which have a large number of Asian and European residents and workers. Less than 20% of the entire population in all the emirates are official UAE citizens. Other than the official sole language of Arabic, other foreign languages are spoken including Persian, English, Hindi and Urdu.

The education infrastructure has been developed and strengthened to accommodate the considerable and rapid increase in the population. Education is now completely free of charge for all citizens, at all levels, making education more accessible for all. Generally the workforce are highly educated - 95% of all females, and 80% of males who complete secondary school continue on to higher education. The emirates have also attracted a number of prestigious international schools, such as the American University of Sharjah, the Michigan State University of Dubai and the George Mason University.

Business Costs

The UAE has a federal political system which enforces exclusive jurisdiction in major areas such as foreign affairs and defence, however there is no federal tax legislation, instead tax laws are set and regulated by each emirate. The UAE has an extremely favourable tax regime, with no personal income tax, capital gains tax, value-added tax or withholding tax. Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have legislation that controls corporate tax, in other emirates only oil, gas and petrochemical companies are required to pay taxes.

The highest office rental rates can be found in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which has an average lease cost of $115.69 per square foot per annum. The 2010 Cushman & Wakefield Report ranks Dubai’s International Financial Centre as having the fourth highest average office rental rate in the world, after the cities of Tokyo, London and Hong Kong. The Dubai CBD has seen a dramatic drop in rental costs, with the average office space costing just $6.32 per square foot per annum. In Abu Dhabi the average office space rental costs $88.51 per square foot per annum. Costs for renting space in the other smaller emirates are much lower, due to those areas being less developed.

There is no such thing as a minimum wage in the UAE, which has led to the exploitation of labourers, particularly for those working in the construction sectors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The average wage of an unskilled worker amounts to $150 a month, however skilled workers, especially foreign nationals working at management level are often paid competitive salaries, which are relative to those found in London and New York. The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce reports that the average monthly wage for workers in the emirate is $2431.
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