More than 60% of UAE professionals prefer to be their own boss, survey shows

Personal fulfilment, a better work-life balance and higher income are encouraging employees to start their own businesses

The most popular industries for entrepreneurship in the UAE include IT, internet and e-commerce. Unsplash
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More than 60 per cent of professionals in the UAE would prefer to be self-employed, according to a survey by jobs site and market research agency YouGov.

About 56 per cent of professionals are currently thinking of starting a business, 24 per cent have tried to start their own business in the past, while only 4 per cent had not thought about establishing a new company, according to the survey's findings.

The survey polled 1,800 respondents from countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco between February 15 and March 2.

Forty-nine per cent of those surveyed said personal fulfilment was the top reason for preferring to be self-employed.

This was followed by 47 per cent who want to choose their own work-life balance, 43 per cent who said it would allow them to give back to the community and 41 per cent who want to be their own boss, the survey found.

“The Middle East and North Africa region is home to a wide array of entrepreneurs with unique perspectives and experiences,” Ola Haddad, director of human resources at, said.

“By understanding their views, our latest survey identifies the challenges they face and develop tailored solutions to support their growth and success.”

The number of small and medium enterprises operating in the UAE reached 557,000 at the end of last year, state news agency Wam reported this month.

The UAE aims to increase this number to one million by the end of 2030 as it seeks to boost the contribution of SMEs to the economy, Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, said in the Wam report.

SMEs account for 63.5 per cent of the non-oil economy, he said.

Developing the sector and accelerating the growth of the start-up ecosystem are priorities for the UAE government under its development strategy for the next 50 years.

In October, theMinistry of Economy unveiled the Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 initiative, which seeks to develop more than 8,000 small and medium enterprises and start-ups by 2030, with a focus on technology.

The programme also has a goal of creating 20 unicorns, or start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above, by 2031.

When asked about the reasons for starting their own business, 42 per cent of respondents to the survey said they needed more income and 32 per cent chose greater independence in what they wanted to achieve.

However, 26 per cent of UAE respondents said they would prefer to seek employment with a company rather than start on their own, according to

For 53 per cent of respondents, learning new skills was the top reason for seeking an employment with a company, while 47 per cent cited regular income and 36 per cent chose job security.

Meanwhile, a third of respondents in the UAE have ambitions to grow their business further in their country of residence and 23 per cent aim to become a major international group, according to the survey.

With growth in mind, 63 per cent of UAE respondents said they are planning to hire for their business in the next year.

About 64 per cent said financing was their top concern while setting up a business, 41 per cent said establishing the right contacts was an issue and 37 per cent cited the uncertainty of profit or income.

The most popular industries for entrepreneurship in the UAE include hospitality, recreation and entertainment, IT, internet and e-commerce, real estate and property development, and consumer goods and fast-moving consumer goods, the survey said.

The success of female Emirati entrepreneurs — in pictures

The perceived image of entrepreneurs in the region is also very positive. Eighty-five per cent of UAE respondents to the survey believe that business owners are opportunity-driven and 86 per cent say they help to create new jobs

Forty-six per cent of respondents said the best advice to offer budding entrepreneurs is to not be afraid of failure, followed by 32 per cent who said innovation was key to success, while 22 per cent picked access to funding and 20 per cent chose employing the right people, the survey found.

Updated: April 11, 2023, 9:30 AM