Definition of Youth

No clear definition of youth exists in the United Arab Emirates. A National Youth Conference in 2010 targeted young people aged between 11-25 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 18
  • XX
  • Female
  • 18
  • 18
  • XX

  • While UAE is based on Sharia law, a minimum age for marriage exists. Homosexual acts illegal, with punishment including the death penalty. Source: UNSD, ILGA, UNICEF Report (2011)

Candidacy Age

  • Lower House
  • 25
  • Source:  Inter-Parliamentary Union Conditions vary in each of the seven Emirates. Half of the National Council is appointed, and the other half is indirectly elected.

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Criminal Law of United Arab Emirates

Majority Age


Source: Civil Code (1986)

Voting Age


Parliament is half indirectly elected, and half appointed. Minimum age is 25 to be eligible for the Electoral College.
Source:  Inter-Parliamentary Union

Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 99.61% Male (15-24) %
  • 99.10% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • --Male %
  • -- Female %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 25.20% Male (13-15) %
  • 13.20% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Youth policy in the United Arab Emirates is coordinated regionally by the seven different Emirates.

No overarching youth policy or plan exists across the seven federal Emirates of the UAE. One of the strategic objectives of the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare (GAYSW) is to develop “the youth sector according to community needs.” The Authority focuses on youth centres, youth associations, clubs, youth camp, youth awards, and the National Youth Conference. While the Authority has responsibility to “implement Government’s policy on Youth Sector and create action plans and projects to realize it”, no such plans can be found online. Youth are included in the national development plans of Emirates, such as the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 (2008), which includes a strategic aim to equip youth with the skills needed to enter the workforce.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Culture, Youth & Community Development has national responsibility for youth, however the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare (GAYSW) is noted as “the supreme body responsible for the welfare of youth and youth activities”. This includes responsibility for the youth sector, and in supporting youth to “utilize free time, improve creative skills, deepen national identity principles, instill loyalty, belonging and voluntary work sense.” The GAYSW has offices in three of the Emirates, however, its mandate across the other four is unclear.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
No national youth organisation or association exist within the United Arab Emirates.   A National Youth Forum, organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Community Development, took place in 2010 and according to the ICICP UAE summary, included “over 2,000 students and sought to promote cultural awareness and creativity among young Emirati citizens.” It is unclear whether such Forums have taken place since.   According to the official Facebook Page of the GAYSW, the UAE hosted the Arab Youth Development Forum 2014, which focused on the Post-2015 development agenda.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
No documentation on the budget for youth in United Arab Emirates could be found online. The World Bank does not calculate spending on education as a percentage of government expenditure or GDP for United Arab Emirates from 2000.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed May 2014).

Additional Background

The BBC Country Profile – United Arab Emirates (2013), provides background information on the country:
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states formed in 1971 by the then Trucial States after independence from Britain.
Since then, it has grown from a quiet backwater to one of the Middle East's most important economic centres.
Although each state - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain - maintains a large degree of independence, the UAE is governed by a Supreme Council of Rulers made up of the seven emirs, who appoint the prime minister and the cabinet. [...]
However, politically it remains authoritarian. It was the only country in the region not to have elected bodies until 2006, when it convened a half-elected federal assembly, which was however restricted to a consultative role. Although the turmoil of the Arab Spring popular revolts has largely passed it by, the UAE introduced Internet restrictions in 2012 to hinder the use of social media to organise protests, and imprisoned a large group of Islamists on charges to plotting a coup in 2013.
The Innovations in Civic Participation – United Arab Emirates (n.d.) includes a summary on the situation for youth:
Due to rapid oil production, the United Arab Emirates is one of the wealthier nations in the Middle East, but young Emirati citizens still face a variety of challenges, some of which are regional and some of which are more country-specific. The Emirates face the same unemployment challenges and lack of entrepreneurship that most of their neighbors face. Part of this is due to an influx of foreign nationals that the Emirates have seen over the past few decades which have reduced Emirati participation in their own economy. As such, many youth programs are meant to overcome a sense of youth exclusion in the UAE, from both economic and social development sectors.
The consistency with which the UAE has hosted the National Youth Forum and the development plans that both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have in place indicate that as the UAE moves forward, it may continue to recognize and address the challenges faced by its young people. Though the UAE has not developed a comprehensive national policy, opportunities for youth engagement are widespread. Civil society organizations play a key role with diverse programs for young people and individual emirates engage their youth populations through independently developed policies. At the same time, the government could benefit by developing more programs and initiatives specifically designed to increase the civic participation of young people.