Population and demographic mix
The UAE witnessed significant population increase during the past few years because of significant growth in the various economic sectors which lead to influx of workers from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. From 4.1 million in 2005, the population of the UAE grew to 8.3 million by the end of 2010. Out of this, the number of UAE citizens is less than 1 million (947,947).
According to estimates by World Bank and Department of Census and Statistics of the United Nations, the UAE's population reached around 9 million in 2014; expatriates still outnumbering the Emiratis. Citizens and residents live in harmony proving that the UAE's society is a perfect example of tolerance and coexistence.
Statistics of the population in the two largest emirates in 2014 revealed that the number of residents of the emirate of Abu Dhabi was about 2.6 million (according to Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi) and about 2.3 million in the emirate of Dubai (according to Dubai Statistics Center).
The UAE Government aims to balance the demographic mix between Emiratis and expatriates. Towards this, the late H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, had called for dedicating 2008 as the year of national identity, initiating official activities aimed at maintaining the country's national identity in an age of globalisation.
The President's call was in line with the strategic vision adopted by the federal government, which aims to promote and preserve the national identity of the UAE and launch initiatives that will maintain values of the community.
One of the KPIs set for maintaining a cohesive society and preserved identity to achieve National Agenda is National Identity Index. This composite indicator measures the sense of belonging and national identity of citizens. The index, as of 2014, stands at 90.8 per cent and is targeted to be 100 per cent by 2021.
Government entities responsible for preserving the national identity
Federal Demographic Council (FDC) has been actively working to re-balance the UAE's demographic structure while strengthening the loyalty of the UAE's citizens to their leadership and homeland. FDC is charged with establishing what proportion of the population should be Emirati citizens by 2021.
Ministry of Culture and Youth is in charge of spreading cultural awareness, preserving the national identity, strengthening the sense of belonging to the nation amongst Emiratis and ensuring nurturing young Emiratis' abilities.
The ministry defines national identity as a system of social and moral values associated with the lifestyle of the people in the past, present and future. This system is founded on the essence of the people's existence and their survival in the face of the challenges of dispersion, extinction, disintegration and demise. This can be achieved by strengthening the fundamental concepts of belonging: citizenship, work and productive initiatives.
Through libraries and cultural centres, the ministry offers a range of community and cultural services and programmes aiming to develop an intellectual and creative community capable of developing youth and consolidating their sense of national identity.
National Cultural Encyclopedia
The National Cultural Encyclopedia project is launched by Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCY) and aims to document:
- data of UAE intellectuals and the creative works produced by them
- data of active cultural institutions in the state
- data and achievement of figures such as writers, poets, artists and creators for the purpose of providing this history to the world and preserving the country's outputs and achievements.
'Al Bayt Mitwahid' (Our Home is United) Association
Al Bayt Mitwahid Association was inspired by the vision of the UAE's Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who recognised the importance of unity for realising the hopes and aspirations of the people and instilled in everyone the spirit of giving without expectations and discrimination.
Later, the 'Al Bayt Mitwahid' campaign was launched to celebrate unity and promote a culture of generosity across the UAE's communities. It was inspired by the late H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and by H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE who made the phrase 'Al Bayt Mitwahid' famous.
The association provides an open platform for UAE communities to take part in creating, fundraising, planning and implementing caring initiatives that celebrate unity and foster a feeling of solidarity and sense of duty. Read about the initiatives of Al Bayt Mitwahid.
Developing an identity programme
Role of Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP)
The UAE Government established Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP), earlier known as Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) in 2004 to execute the population register and the ID card programme with the aim of protecting the identity of the UAE's citizens and maintaining their digital security.
The Federal Decree Law No. 3 of 2017 conferred additional role to ICP. The new functions include citizenship affairs, passport matters, entry and residence of foreigners in the UAE which were earlier under the scope of Ministry of Interior.
ICP registers both citizens and residents and such registration is a legal requirement. By registering people, ICP aims to maintain accurate information on the demographic structure of the UAE's population. Registering people is also a move to build an integrated system for managing personal IDs and which will enhance provision of online government services as per the Federal eGovernment Plan and Vision 2021.
Emirates ID card
ICP issues Emirates ID card to registered people. The card has several uses. It can be used as an identity proof to get government services, for voting in the elections of Federal National Council, as a travel document for UAE citizens to travel within the GCC and as a document to pass immigration through the eGates and smart gates at several airports in the UAE. Further, the identity card is designed to reinforce security for its holders, guarding them against fraud and illicit transactions. Read about the Emirates ID’s features and benefits and how to apply for an Emirates ID.
The UAE National Service law
The late H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE issued Federal Law No. 6 of 2014, Concerning the National Military Service and Reserve Force.
The law aims to instil values of loyalty and sacrifice in the hearts of the citizens to defend the achievements and gains of the Federation, push forward the wheel of development and protect the homeland, its borders, its resources and gains and national security and stability.
According to the law, the service may be completed at the UAE Armed Force, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, State Security Service and other institutions identified by the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
In addition, citizens who complete the mandatory military service will enjoy a range of benefits, including priority for taking up jobs in government institutions and private businesses, marriage grants, housing plots and scholarships.
The terms of the UAE national service
According to Federal Law No. 6 for 2014 on National Military Service and Reserve Force as amended, it is mandatory for all medically fit Emirati men to accomplish the national service after obtaining the approval of National and Reserve Service Committee of UAE Armed Forces' General Command.
According to the law, the service is optional for women, regardless of their education.
Pursuant to Resolution No.15 of 2022 issued by the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to amend some provisions of Resolution No.6 of 2016 Regarding the Amendment of the National Service Period, the national service term for male recruits holding a high school diploma or its equivalent and above has been shortened to 11months, and for those who didn't complete their high school, the term will be three years.
According to the resolution, the duration of national service for female recruits is 11 months.
What the employers need to know
Working Emiratis will not be exempt and while serving in the military, time will be added to their end-of-service and pension benefits.
Federal and local departments, as well as private sector businesses will be obliged to allow their Emirati workers to enlist for military service. They also have to keep their jobs or similar jobs open for them once they complete the service. Their positions can be filled on a temporary basis until they have completed their services.
Failing to enlist for the national service
Citizens who fail to enlist for military service without valid reason until they reach 29 years of age will face a jail term of one month to one year, or a fine ranging between AED 10,000 and AED 50,000 or both. They will have to undergo the military service even if they exceed the age limit of 30.
Postponing the national service
The national service can be postponed only if a person:
- is less than 29 years old and is enrolled in a university, college, institution or training centre for a course the duration of which is two years or more
- has obtained a minimum of 90 per cent grade average or better in their General Certificate of Secondary Education
- reaching 18 years old and has not completed secondary education, provided the person is continuing morning classes education.
As an alternative, those who do not meet the conditions for performing national service can do administrative, civil or technical jobs according to their capabilities and for the same duration of service.
Exemption from the national service
The sole son of a family and medically unfit citizens can be exempt from military service. Those who sustain their parents or siblings with special needs and those serving jail terms would benefit from a temporary exemption.
Once the reason for temporary exemption is over, those people have to report to the authorities to undergo the military service.
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Updated on 23 May 2022