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Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in France
Investment in its people as the ‘wealth of the nation’ has been a primary focus of the UAE Government since the inception of the state. The population has a high standard of living and is now reaping the benefits of investment in education and the health services. In addition, efforts are being made to develop human resources, effect the empowerment of women, and provide social welfare to the more vulnerable in society. The impact of social change, however, has been significant, in particular the demographic imbalances brought about by urbanisation and immigration. Nevertheless, the UAE continues to be a tolerant, open, caring society that cherishes its traditional roots.Preliminary results of the 2005 census released in mid-2006 revealed that the total UAE population counted on census night was 3,769,080. This figure includes nationals and non-nationals, but does not take into account a group numbering 335,615 who were not counted for various reasons. When both figures are added together, the actual total is 4,104,695. This is an increase of 74.8 per cent compared to the last census conducted in 1995 when the population was 2,411,041.
This rapid rise in population has necessitated a considerable investment in education. Today, the UAE offers a comprehensive education to all male and female students from kindergarten to university, with education for the country’s citizens being provided free at all levels. There is also an extensive private education sector, while several thousand students, of both sexes, pursue courses of higher education abroad at Government expense.
Much has been achieved since the early 1970s but efforts are now being made to improve the educational environment for all pupils, in line with a re-evaluation of the role of government. In particular, Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), is spearheading privatisation of the education sector in Abu Dhabi.
Ninety-five per cent of all females and 80 per cent of all males who are enrolled in the final year of secondary school apply for admission to a higher education institution in the UAE or study abroad. Nationals can attend government tertiary-level institutions free of charge, and a wide and rapidly increasing range of private institutions, many with international accreditation, supplement the public sector. The Al Ain-based United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) continues to be the country’s flagship national institution of higher education, whilst newer institutions such as Zayed University (ZU), which has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, were established in 1998 by the Federal Government to educate national women and prepare them to actively participate in society. The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), on the other hand, offer a more technically oriented education in 12 well-equipped colleges spread throughout the United Arab Emirates. HCT, in conjunction with its commercial arm, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT), prides itself on responding quickly and effectively to current needs in the regional and international workplace.
Notable private institutions include the American Universities of Sharjah and Dubai, Sharjah University and the Ajman University of Science and Technology. Recent entrants to the educational marketplace include Abu Dhabi University, Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi and an Abu Dhabi chapter of the Sorbonne. Dubai is also setting-up a 2.33-million-square-metre, multi-university complex, Dubai Knowledge Universities (DKU), in the heart of its ‘Academic City’. The UAE also has several vocational and technical educational centres for those seeking practical training in their chosen careers.Indeed, now that the educational infrastructure is in place, the focus is on ensuring that the youth of the country are ready to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century workplace. In addition, to ensure that there are enough jobs for these emerging graduates, emiratisation of the workforce is being encouraged by the Government, especially in the private sector, where UAE nationals account for a very small percentage of the total workforce. Some progress has already been made in banking, insurance and human resources.
Despite the UAE’s economic success there are, inevitably, individuals who are not in a position to benefit directly from the country’s good fortune. Therefore, an extensive social welfare network exists to assist these vulnerable members of society. This takes the form of social security benefits administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, in addition to the practical help offered by the network of Ministry-supported social centres run by the General Women’s Union and the government-supported social welfare and rehabilitation centres providing assistance to the disabled. Effective from 1 October 2005, President HH Sheikh Khalifa ordered a 75 per cent increase in the value of social support assistance give to UAE nationals.UAE citizens are also eligible for free or subsidised housing since access to modern comfortable housing is considered to be the right of every citizen. However, because of the rapid rise in population, the achievement of this aspiration has necessitated government intervention at federal and emirate level. Between 2000 and 2005, 6050 houses were distributed by the Zayed Housing Programme (ZHP) throughout the country. In addition, in 2006, a new corporate entity, the Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Establishment, was formed in Dubai to assist in housing nationals and the Abu Dhabi government launched a Dh22 billion plan to construct 1800 residential units for UAE nationals.
The belief that women are entitled to take their place in society is grounded in the UAE Constitution, which guarantees the principles of social justice for all, in accordance with the precepts of Islam. Under the Constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, health care and social welfare and the same right to practice professions as men. The guarantees enshrined in the Constitution have also been carried through into implementing legislation governing equalisation of opportunities in all fields.
As a result, women currently represent 22.4 per cent of the total labour force in the UAE (up from a mere 5.4 per cent in 1995): 66 per cent of government jobs are held by women, 30 per cent of which are decision-making posts.
This positive development is due not only to the substantial enrolment by women in education, including higher education (77 per cent), but also to relaxed social restrictions on female employment and the fact that work is increasingly being seen not merely as a source of income but as establishing personal identity. There is no doubt also that female role models in all walks of life are multiplying rapidly in the UAE, encouraging women to break away from traditional areas of employment. Nevertheless, gender inequality remains an issue requiring renewed focus to ensure that individual success stories are no longer exceptional.
The challenge remains to create an enabling environment for the achievement of equality between the sexes. A key player in this strategy has been the General Women’s Union (GWU). Under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the GWU has through the years addressed many inter-related issues of concern for women, children and the family and, as the needs of women have developed, so the range and focus of the GWU’s concerns and expertise have evolved. In addition, the GWU plays a significant role in women’s affairs at regional and international levels and has participated in all of the UN-sponsored world conferences on women. In this context, it is now focusing on the necessary measures at a national level to activate the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and also to implement the recommendations of the Beijing Declaration through the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women, a joint initiative with UNDP, UNIFEM, local government agencies and NGOs.Considering the pivotal role that the GWU plays in political affairs in the UAE, it is not surprising that the organisation has been instrumental in preparing the ground for greater participation of women in national politics. These aspirations were realized in part when, in a groundbreaking move in December 2006, UAE women were given the opportunity to participate in the elections for the Federal National Council, the highest legislative and supervisory authority in the country, where they gained nine out of the 40 seats on the Council. Two women already sit at the Cabinet table.
The country has a well-developed health service, including a sophisticated physical infrastructure of well-equipped hospitals, specialised clinics and primary care centres. Most of the infectious diseases like malaria, measles and poliomyelitis that were once prevalent in the UAE have been eradicated, while pre-natal and post-natal care is on a par with the world’s most developed countries.
In fact, infant mortality and maternal mortality rates have dropped remarkably and, according to the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), the UAE is one of two countries from the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that have successfully maintained maternal mortality rates at levels considered low by international standards, primarily due to the fact that almost all deliveries in the country take place in hospitals under direct medical supervision. The new-born (neonate) mortality rate has been reduced to 5.54 per 1000 and infant mortality rate to 7.7 per 1000. Maternal mortality rates have dropped to 0.01 for every 100,000 in 2004.
As a consequence of this high standard of care at all stages of the healthcare system, life expectancy at birth in the UAE, at 78.3 years, has reached levels similar to those in Europe and North America.
Pressure on the country’s public-funded healthcare services in the face of an ever-increasing population and a rise in healthcare costs has prompted the Government to introduce health insurance schemes to encourage investment in the private sector.
Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is destined to be a major player in the provision of health care, medical education and research, not only in the UAE, but in the entire region. Scheduled for completion in 2010, but likely to be finished sooner, DHCC is being built on the former site of the Global Village in the vicinity of existing hospitals Al Wasl, Rashid, the American Hospital and Welcare.
Hospitals in the UAE
The UAE Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the Government is actively encouraging a more dynamic media. A reorganisation of government ministries in 2006 led to the closure of the Ministry of Information and Culture and to establishment of a National Media Council and a new Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development. The core media bodies of the old Ministry of Information and Culture, in the form of the Press and Publications Department, the External Information Department and Emirates News Agency, WAM, were placed under the authority of the National Media Council. All jurisdictions and responsibilities concerning media affairs that previously fell under the Ministry of Information and Culture were also transferred to the National Media Council, which will oversee media development in the UAE.
The aim of these moves was to streamline the different and varied functions that previously fell under the remit of a single ministry. The Government was also of the opinion that the culture and media fields are both in the process of rapid development and it was necessary to take a fresh look at how government support could be most effectively structured.
Domestic media, including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, satellite and terrestrial TV are thriving and major international media organizations and broadcasters have established headquarters in Dubai Media City and related free zones.Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Media Inc. and Dubai Media Inc. are key players in radio and television in the UAE. EMI reaches millions of Arabs around the world, its coverage extending from the Middle East to Europe and North America. It runs three satellite television channels, Abu Dhabi TV, Abu Dhabi Sports Channel and the Emirates Channel, and six radio channels, Abu Dhabi Radio, Emirates FM, Holy Qur’an, Sound of Music, English FM1 and FM2. Its operations also include a number of newspapers, magazines and websites. All in all the UAE has over 20 radio stations based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Umm al-Qaiwain and Ajman and over 40 television stations broadcast from the country. It also has a wide range of indigenous Arabic and English newspapers and magazines.
Labour rights conventions: