Dubai’s gender imbalance is ‘unnatural’ according to a report released last week by the Dubai Statistics Centre.  The statistics show that 75.77% of Dubai’s population of approximately 2.2 million are men, and just 24.23% are women – second only to Qatar who has a higher gender imbalance still. 

Fortunately this isn’t a result of sex selection, but a huge transient expatriate-based workforce – one of the largest in the world. Statistics also show that two-thirds of the population is between the ages of 20-39. This makes a nice change from much of the rest of the world where the percentage of people in the young workforce is falling dramatically.  However, it still makes one wonder what family life – or the lack of it – is like in a country so dominated by working age men who are not accompanied by family members. 

The unique qualities women bring to society must be in short supply (think service, gentleness, an eye for beauty and detail in the home, emotional intuitiveness).  Further, those who vote to run the country are in fact only a small minority, and non-expatriate women must really have to stick together given they are not allowed to be alone in the presence of any man who is not a direct relative.

The Philippines is one country workers might come from.  In fact the Philippines’ export labour market is estimated to account for nearly 11 per cent of its GDP, and in 2013, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) sent home US$23 billion. There are an estimated 10 million foreign workers at any given time – a tenth of its population – and Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore host the largest numbers.  A recent New Zealand article commented of these workers:


Street signs and posters in recruitment office windows offer big bucks for labouring work in Dubai, Saudi, Japan. Indeed, the Overseas Filipino Worker, and their remittances, is part of the national narrative and identity.

The world loves the Filipino workforce’s commitment to service. Cheerfulness is the national disposition. In New Zealand, these desirable attributes include English-speaking and – to some Kiwis – staunchly Christian behaviours.  Not many Filipinos show up on the worksite or dairy farm late, stoned, or hung-over.


Maybe if these are the sort of workers Dubai is attracting, it isn’t too bad a place to be despite a lack of the personality and gender attributes which the ‘female genius’ brings to society.  Still, it is sad the world economy necessitates that families be apart, and women be absent from such societies, for long periods of time.  Some blame high rents for the fact that the men who work there are unable to bring their families with them. 

Whatever the cause, presumably all these people will eventually go home to their families and/or countries.  Where will that leave Dubai?  Once there is not so much work in construction, the population which currently fuels the economy may well drop dramatically.  With all its mega developments and sky scrapers, Dubai is a truly unique and interesting cultural mix.  It will be interesting to chart its future.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...