Residents of the United Arab Emirates have a resoundingly positive view of the country they live in and of the future, in stark contrast to views from other countries around the world. According to Brunswick Insight’s global research, an overwhelming sense of well-being and security, trust in the capacity of business for doing good, and a burgeoning generation that is enjoying more financial stability than its predecessors, are some of the main factors underpinning optimism in the UAE.
Brunswick Insight surveyed over 42,000 people in 26 countries – the largest research study undertaken by an advisory firm that looks into global perspectives of national well-being, critical issues facing society, and attitudes to businesses in our history.
Rupert Young, Partner, Head of Brunswick Gulf said, “Our global research comes out at a critical time. The world of politics is going through great shifts, and increasingly the onus is on business to be agents of change. The UAE stands out in the research for its optimism and positive outlook, and a sense that businesses are key drivers to a bright future. This highlights the importance for companies here to have a greater role in society and the opportunity to develop social purpose as part of their business models.”
Positive Perceptions of National Well-Being
A key finding of the research was the unequivocal sense of national well-being among residents of the UAE, across the board, and far beyond that exhibited by any country surveyed.
The UAE came in as overwhelmingly positive about its overall state of affairs. More than nine-in-ten (92 percent) believe things in the country are going ‘well’, with 56 percent saying things are going ‘very well’. This is compared to the survey’s 26-country average where just 51 percent believe things in their country are going well and only 9 percent say ‘very well’. This positivity is shared across age groups, with more than 90 percent in each age group thinking saying things are going well. The next most positive country in the survey was Switzerland. At the other end of the spectrum are France, Brazil and Italy, with 20 percent or fewer think things are going well.
Belief in Business
The survey asked who people believed are the most capable of solving problems facing their countries, looking at six key institutions comprising businesses, government, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, the military and religious institutions.
In the UAE, government comes in first in terms of which institution is most effective in providing solution to major challenges. Business in the UAE is seen as most representative of the interests of ‘people like you’, with 60 percent rating it in the top two, and government (48 percent) and academic institutions (43 percent) also came in at the top (compared to world averages of 32 percent for government and 41 percent respectively in the study).
The survey also looked into insights of how people view business as a whole and their openness to trade and foreign investment.
In the UAE, more than four-in-five (82 percent) have a positive view of businesses. Three-in-four (74 percent) think that businesses in the country are honest and trustworthy. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the world: while 64 percent believe that when businesses in my country do well the entire country benefits, only 37 percent believe that businesses in their country are honest and trustworthy. In the UK and the USA this figure drops to a mere 28 percent.
However, a small majority (56 percent) in the UAE agree that business leaders ‘do not really understand the challenges I face in my life’.
Jeehan Balfaqaih, Partner, Brunswick said, “There is an opportunity for businesses here to improve their communications and relationships with all their stakeholders to be sure that they are perceived to understand the challenges that their customers face. This is particularly important here in the UAE as the country scales and ages, to avoid the negativity and distrust that is now so prevalent in the West.”
Improved Financial Stability From Generations Past
Most survey respondents in the UAE expressed a sense of financial security beyond that of the previous generations, and one they felt confident would grow and endure in future generations. Three-in-four in the UAE (74 percent) rate their personal financial situation as better than their parents at the same age, and 71 percent think that today’s children, when grown, will be doing even better. In contrast, in the US, the UK, Germany and most other Western wealthy countries, fewer than 50 percent of respondents thought they were doing better financially than their parents. The numbers drop dramatically still further when asked if they believe that their children will be better off than they are.
“The sense of security that people have in the UAE and the optimism they have for future generations is something that the country should be both proud of and look to continue to build on. For businesses, this presents an opportunity for even greater involvement and the development of long-term programs that engage the next generation in meaningful ways,” Mr Young concluded.