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El context econòmic dels Emirats Àrabs Units

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

The United Arab Emirates registered subdued economic performance in recent years, partly due to cuts in oil output as part of OPEC agreements, continued corporate restructuring, reduced government investment and declining real estate prices. External factors also include a slowing global economy, geopolitical tensions, weaker energy demand and the COVID-19 pandemic. After contracting by an estimated -6.1% GDP in 2020, economic growth picked up in 2021 (2.2% GDP), supported by the UAE’s early and strong health response, continued supportive macroeconomic policies and a rebound in tourism and domestic activity related to the delayed Dubai Expo 2020 (IMF). Economic growth is expected to strengthen in 2022 and 2023 (3% GDP) thanks to a recovery in oil prices and production level. Regional tensions, potentially volatile oil prices and the Omicron variant are key risks to the outlook (Focus Economics).

In 2021, the UAE’s economy recovered from the deep but temporary recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, lower oil prices and reduced oil production. The UAE promptly put in place supportive measures to mitigate the effects of the crisis, and continued its accommodative fiscal policy. The successful vaccination program boosted domestic consumption, and the construction and tourism sectors were stimulated by activity related to Dubai Expo 2020, held from October 2021 to March 2022. According to the IMF, the government net borrowing improved to -0.5% GDP in 2021 (from -5.6% in 2020) and is expected to further decrease to -0.2% and -0.1% in 2022 and 2023. The public debt is low but has increased rapidly in recent years, from 20.9% GDP in 2018 to 39.4% in 2020, according to IMF estimate. It decreased slightly in 2021 (37.3% GDP) and is forecast to remain under 40% GDP in 2022 (38.6%) and 2023 (38.9%). The public debt is expected to be funded mostly by tapping into the international capital markets (Coface), although the UAE’s Central Bank and sovereign wealth funds own important foreign assets, providing the country with a large liquidity cushion (Abu Dhabi holds world's fourth largest sovereign wealth fund) and making it a net creditor at global level. The deflation observed in 2020 (-2.1%) turned into a moderate inflation in 2021 (2%) which is forecast to remain stable in 2022 (2.2%) and 2023 (2.1%) (IMF). In the context of the ambitious ‘Project of the 50’ agenda, the government took a series of measures to improve competitiveness, attract investments, modernise and diversify its economy. Structural reforms are needed to move to a more environmentally sustainable growth model.

The UAE has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world and a highly developed welfare system. It also has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the Middle East (while Dubai enjoys the lowest unemployment level in the world, at around 0.5%) and depends heavily on foreign labour (more than 85% of the workforce). A policy of 'Emiratisation' has been launched to encourage employment of the local workforce. Nevertheless, unemployment rate among nationals continues to be considerably high compared to the rate among non-nationals (it varies according to emirate and is the highest in Abu Dhabi).

Main Indicators 202020212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 358.87419.76e503.91519.05538.19
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -4.83.8e5.14.23.9
GDP per Capita (USD) 3641e474849
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 39.734.730.729.529.0
Inflation Rate (%) -
Current Account (billions USD) 21.1047.9574.1864.7951.87
Current Account (in % of GDP) 5.911.4e14.712.59.6

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

According to the latest figures from the World Bank, agriculture contributes to 0.9% of GDP and employs a mere 1% of the workforce, as most of the country is unsuitable for agriculture and animal husbandry. Hence, around 85% of UAE's food is imported. Fishing and date-growing are among the main agricultural activities. This sector was the most resilient to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manufacturing activities have seen an unprecedented growth in recent years, particularly in sectors such as metal processing, furniture, industrial preparation of food stuffs, aluminium production, construction materials, fertilisers, the petrochemical industry, fibreglass and real estate. Industry now comprises 40.9% of GDP and employs 34% of the workforce. The portion of GDP from oil and gas sector has declined gradually (30% of GDP according to latest estimates) owing to a successful economic diversification policy. The United Arab Emirates is the world's 8th largest oil producer with significant reserves. Its oil and gas reserves are estimated to last approximately 100 years at the current rate of consumption. Since 2020, this sector has suffered from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, OPEC+ oil production cuts, lower oil prices, reduced global oil demand, and disruption in global supply chains (World Bank), but it is expected to recover in 2022.

The tertiary sector contributes 58.2% of GDP and employs 64% of the workforce. The main sub-sectors are international trade, air transport, financial activities and tourism. The travel and tourism sector, in particular, has a total contribution of around 12% of GDP, mainly driven by the emirate of Dubai (UAE Official Portal). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this sector contracted in 2020, as tourism, international transport and trade decreased sharply. The lifting of lockdown measures and the Dubai Expo to be held from October 2021 to March 2022 are expected to stimulate the sector in 2022.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 1.4 34.2 64.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.9 47.5 51.6
Value Added (Annual % Change) 28.5 2.5 4.9

Source: World Bank, Latest Available Data. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


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Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.}}

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation


Business environment ranking


The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

World Rank:

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

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