There is a widespread belief that all the citizens of the UAE are very rich. In particular, a person I know who grew up in UAE suggested that "Pretty much every citizen has a Bentley" is literally true.

How close is this to reality? Is the average citizen of the UAE very rich, or is the income distribution more like that of other countries? If it helps, consider only long-term citizens.

Links to this claim: In the UAE, even poor people are rich, "provide native Emirati people, especially the upper class, with extra money" 2, 3, 4.

Please note that only 20% of the population of UAE are citizens of the country, so statistics that apply to the entire population are not very indicative.

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    We want to focus our attention on doubtful claims that are widely held or are made by notable people. Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 18, 2012 at 15:07
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    Size of an apartment isn't very good measure of how rich some is. Let's say a house that would make you filthy rich in Tokyo might be considered tiny rathole in Australia.
    – vartec
    Dec 18, 2012 at 17:07
  • Do you consider purchasing power parity? For example, while a UAE citizen may be richer than a DR Congo one (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…) if they both convert their assets to e.g. USD, things are also more expensive in UAE, so their richness may not be so significant.
    – Gnubie
    Jan 3, 2013 at 19:37
  • @Gnubie I'll be happy with any solid data, PPP-corrected or not (as long as it's known whether it is).
    – RomanSt
    Jan 3, 2013 at 22:51
  • What sort of margin are we looking for? Would finding a single poor UAE citizen invalidate this claim?
    – Ian
    Mar 8, 2013 at 10:02

2 Answers 2


Not all Emiratis are "very rich".

According to A lifetime of perks in UAE help cushion wealth gap:

Without government support for housing and school fees for children, the number of Emiratis living on less than 80 dirhams ($22) a day would rise by 21 percent in Dubai and would double in Sharjah, according to a study conducted in 2009 by the Dubai Economic Council, an advisory council to the Dubai government.

So there do exist Emirates that live on less than $22 a day.


The government benefits that Emiratis have long enjoyed would be unthinkable in most of the world: Tax-free income. Free high-quality health care. Subsidized fuel. Generous government-funded retirement plans. Access to land to build homes with interest-free loans. Free higher education, even when pursued abroad.

To ease marriage costs, the government gives Emirati men 70,000 dirhams ($19,000) when they marry an Emirati woman. A debt settlement fund provides a one-time bailout to entrepreneurs who need it. On some occasions, the UAE's rulers have paid the debts of Emirati nationals ahead of major holidays.

See also Any poor Emiratis out there? which says:

An individual whose salary is Dh1,250 or less can get help from the Government. The Ministry of Social Affairs contributes to individuals by helping them financially starting from Dh625
out of 16.9 per cent of the poor residents, 7.2 per cent are Emiratis. People living under Dh80 a day, or Dh2,400 a month, are considered poor.
Beit Al Khair Society says that 17,000 Emirati families need help from the Government. The UAE has people living in poor conditions, but not below the global poverty line.


According to this article:

Wealth of nations: Top 10 countries by average wealth per adult

In term of average wealth per adult in 2011, Switzerland, Australia and Norway are the three richest nations in the world, with Switzerland recording the highest average wealth per adult at USD 540,010 - the only country to exceed USD 500,000. In Asia Pacific, Singapore follows Australia as the second wealthiest nation in the region and fifth in the world in terms of average wealth.

Top 10 countries with highest average wealth per adult in 2011

and this one:

In the Middle East and North Africa, or Mena region, Qatar recorded the highest average wealth per adult of $146,623 in 2011, a rise of 456 per cent from 2000 while Kuwait followed closely with $134,592, rising 156 per cent from 2000. The UAE was placed third in the region with $115,774, up 104 per cent since 2000.

while UAE citizens (assuming adult ones) are quite rich, they are not extraordinarily so.

If this answer:

Bentley prices range from $200,000 to around $400,000. the average Bentley is closer to $200,000 brand new. The Bentley Continentals (the most popular ones) are 200k - 300k. The Mulsanne, Azure and Brooklands are $300k-400k.

is to be believed, it is not conceivable that every adult has a Bentley, unless they are massively into hire purchase!

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    P.S. At that rate, every Swiss should own 2 Bentleys :-)
    – Gnubie
    Jan 6, 2013 at 15:34
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    But you're forgetting that roughly 80% of the adults in UAE are not citizens. I find it quite plausible that the citizens might be extremely rich, with the average per-adult wealth severely "pulled down" by all the poor non-citizens.
    – RomanSt
    Jan 6, 2013 at 15:59
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    Gnubie, I made the same mistake, and had to delete my answer. UAE has a high proportion of expatriate workers, but the question is only about the citizens.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 6, 2013 at 17:15
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    And the question asks about the citizen population, not the average - so the bottom decile or so, rather than the mean, would be the statistic of interest.
    – 410 gone
    Jan 6, 2013 at 18:29
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    Having worked there for two months, I can at least confirm that there are a ruddy great lot of Bentleys/Camaros/etc. around. It's a petrol-head's paradise. Sep 24, 2013 at 9:47

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