The UAE: World's Best Place to Bring Up Kids?

The UAE continues to cement its place as one of the most welcoming destinations for families, offering access to great education, and sufficient options outside school for children to develop into high performing, rounded adults.
The UAE: World's Best Place to Bring Up Kids?
By David Westley
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The marketing teams responsible for the UAE's image could be missing a trick. Instead of promoting the UAE as a great place to do business, or holiday, our data shows that the biggest draw for those that have chosen to live in the UAE, is the quality of life that it delivers to children. If you have a family and are considering moving to the UAE, do so without worry. If you are already here with your family, congratulations on a very wise move! The UAE is a great place to raise a family.

The UAE has been getting better and better as a place to raise children since we first ran the survey in 2014. Today most of the reservations you once felt have pretty much dispatched by the UAE's continued drive to improve education (the inspection regime has paid dividends), the diversification of its economy (and therefore options for residents) and in providing a safe place for all of its inhabitants.

Across all nationalities, 26% of respondents now say their children's quality of life in the UAE is the single biggest reason they choose to stay. It's bigger than any other reason chosen, even pipping the more general "Quality of life" (25%).  An incredible 31% of respondents from the UK cite their children's quality of life is the single biggest reason to be resident in the country, and while this is high compared to other nationalities, it is not an outlier - 23% of respondents originally from India cite their children's quality of life as the reason they stay in the Emirates, for example. 

Why? Three principle reasons, according to the survey. Firstly, an appreciation that living in the UAE develops an openness to other cultures (20% of respondents) that would not exist in their home country. In an increasingly globalised world, this is seen as a distinct advantage. Respondents appreciate the diversity of opportunities there are for children to follow their own interests (16%), due to options available to them (sports, academic and other) as well as the time children have, compared to their home country. Finally, education matters; 12% of respondents cite this as the reason, given the schools of the UAE, they are not worried about their child's future.  

That said, there is still a nub of almost 30% of respondents who worry the long term success of their children could be impacted should they grow up in the UAE. This has been declining year on year, and is a fall from 43% in 2014, and 42% in the 2018 Happiness Survey.  The biggest fear parents worry about is a pretty first world problem - the worry their children develop in too much of a bubble and will lack the self-dependence they will need when they leave home and the UAE. 

Of course, as much as this is a weakness, it is also seen as a strength of the UAE, cited by 15.3% of respondents (up sharply from 8.3%) when asked why respondents are not worried about bringing up their children in the Emirates. In times of crisis, being in a bubble is clearly perceived as more benign.

The level of protection children have in the UAE is also one of the two reasons children are seen to be better "able to follow their own interests" (chosen by 22.2% of respondents). The second is that there is more for them to do living in the UAE, and given the great transport links, weather and relative compactness of our cities, the time to access them.

In 2014, almost a half of respondents said they worried about the paucity of activities available to children and young adults in the UAE. In the year of the Expo, that worry has fallen to just 1 in 5 respondents, and has been falling sharply since the 2019 survey. Pretty much whatever your child's passion, there will be the facilities, coaches and tutors to convert whatever potential there is into reality.   

The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle when it comes to choosing, or continuing, to live in the UAE as a family is the quality of education. was set up because the first question parents used to ask was "Which school should I send my children to?" Ten years ago the issue was a poverty of choice. Today the issue is the surfeit of it. 

With the rise in the number of schools, and the inspection regimes of the KHDA, SPEA and ADEK, the quality of schools has risen sharply, to a point where very few consider education as any sort of impediment to their length of stay, quite the reverse in fact.

In 2021, 36.7% of respondents say the quality of education in the UAE is "much better" than their home country, up from just 11.37% in 2014. Almost 70% say it is better or much better, almost twice the 36% eight years ago.

That said, there are clear differences between nationalities. Twice as many respondents from India will tell you the quality of education in the UAE is much better than in their home country than respondents from the UK (43% compared to 21%), for example.  Each country will be comparing the quality of schools where they come from, with how well its national curriculum is delivered in the Emirates. Overall, however, it is very clear the UAE is not a place where education is a serious concern but an actual draw for expatriates wanting to make sure their children get the best start. 

The UAE is not alone, of course, in offering a great level of education; other countries do so, for free. It is the fact that the UAE is able to offer the combination of great schools, safety, and easy access to resources and expertise for children, that has transformed the UAE into one of the best places in the world to bring up a family. The worst news for competing countries looking to attract the world's top talent? Our survey's trend lines show that when it comes to all things children, the case for the UAE is only getting stronger...

More from the 2021 Survey
Happiness and you - the Happiness Survey 2021 Part 1

More from WSA
How a UAE Education Compares internationally
Moving to the UAE - A How To Guide
Moving to the UAE - How to find a home

This article has been written with the help of, our new data insights tool for the education sector. You can find out more here.

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