First off, job insecurity was last year's biggest concern, and remains so in 2019. However, if there is a positive, it is less of a concern than it was, and has fallen back, almost to 2014 levels. In 2019, it is the single biggest worry for 24.65% of you, falling from 29.82% last year. In 2014, it reached a low of 21.44%.
This will be in no small part to 'relative' optimism regarding the next 12 to 24 months. While the economy has been largely flat in 2019 - offering about 1.6% YoY growth, 2020 should see almost double that, expanding by almost 3 percent, according to the IMF.
The forecasted growth for 2020 would be the fastest since 2016, bolstered by Expo 2020 and fiscal stimulus. A caveat however: growth is still somewhat off that seen from 2011 to 2016, and way off 2003 to 2006 when the country witnessed 7-10% annual growth.
2019: 1.6% est.
2020: 3% est.
Still, on global terms, next year will be a healthy one for the UAE. It is also something perhaps of a new normal: yes, part of the slowdown in growth is because of global economic weakness, but it is also the result of the UAE becoming a more mature economy and a more 'real' place to work and live.
This is, we would argue, is reflected in attitudes towards raising children in the Emirates. Less and less of you worry about whether the UAE is the place to bring up your children. As a cause of concern education has declined for the third straight survey, falling from 8.6% to 7.68% and now is the prime concern for just 6.08% of you. As worries about the UAE's schools have declined, so too have fears over children being sheltered, hidden away in a peripheral outpost, or "exposed to the real world". This concern has fallen, as a primary concern, from 5.7% of you in 2014 to just 2.95% today. The UAE has, clearly, been doing a lot right in creating an environment not only where good schools can flourish, but where parents feel their children will develop the life skills they need to succeed.
Rent, meanwhile, as an issue has almost disappeared. Those of you in the UAE in 2014 will know this is an amazing turnaround. In that year, it was your single largest concern, 28.39% of you citing it as your biggest issue. In 2018, just over 8% of respondents still cited it as such. Today an almost negligible 1.74% of you do. Rent has gone from being the biggest concern of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Happiness survey, to its smallest.
While concerns over rising rents may have evaporated, concerns over rising prices in general remain. Many of you put this in 'Other' last year, so in 2019 we made it an option in its own right and comes in at third in a chart of your biggest concerns, taking 13.89% of responses.
Many of you think the UAE has become just too expensive.
This year we also introduced "loans, debts and other obligations" as an option. It was chosen by 3.65% of you.
In second place, chosen by 17% of you, is something this year the UAE has begun to tackle - "no permanent residency options".
The UAE's Happiness Minister could take a giant leap forward overnight, were she able to offer the new long-term, "golden visa" to a greater number of residents. So far, so good - 2,500 10-year residencies were awarded to "researchers, doctors, and innovators" in November 2019.
The good news then is this is an issue the country has control over, and can deal with when it feels it is the right time to do so.
It is a similar concern to legal protections and rights as an expatriate, which is the primary concern for a significant 8.5% of you. This is actually up slightly on 2018, but still down sharply from 2014 when 10.4% of you claimed it was your biggest concern.
Finally, a note of caution: this year just 3.13% of you said that you were not worried (by anything). This is the lowest this figure has ever been. In 2014, 7.24% of respondents said they were not concerned by anything, a figure that declined slightly in 2018, falling to 6.91%.
In 2019 the UAE is a much more "real" place than ever before, with all the good things, and the not so good, that follows from that.
Happiness 2019 Index
Happiness Rises Across the UAE
Why You Choose to Live in the UAE
Your Biggest Worries Living in the UAE
Who is the Happiest in the UAE?
The UAE and Kids, a Great Mix
Property Ownership - Happiness and Stress
Happiness and Money in 2019
Happiness and Employment in 2019
Happiness and the Expo Effect