New data points to fundamental societal changes

The recently released Abu Dhabi Statistical Yearbook 2013 provides some good insights into local trends in a wide range of areas.

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The UAE is undergoing many of the social and cultural changes associated with other parts of the developed world. Attitudes towards marriage, education and employment, for example, are shifting: people are waiting longer to get married, more women are working outside the home and couples are having fewer children.

As The National reported yesterday, the recently released Abu Dhabi Statistical Yearbook found that the average age of marriage among female Emiratis has risen from 23.7 years of age in 1995 to 25.9 in 2012. A similar but slower pattern is evident among men.

Neither statistic is surprising. Education has changed people’s priorities and perspectives. Young men and women are now more focused on completing their undergraduate and postgraduate studies and establishing their careers before getting married. Many women are no longer dependent on men for their financial destiny. Conversely, the rising cost of weddings and dowries could equally explain this trend.

The government's statistics also reveal a startling and sudden decline in life expectancy among men in the emirate, falling from 77.1 years of age in 2011 to 75.2 in 2012. The assumption here is that a statistical anomaly is at work, one that will most likely correct itself when the next data points are released. However, it could be associated with the high number of car accidents involving young men.

The total number of car accidents has declined since spiking in 2009 when it reached 5,240 casualties. In 2011, that number had fallen to 3,873 injuries and deaths, suggesting there has been some accommodation of safety messages by road users.

Other statistics tumble from this mine of data, recording ordinary and extraordinary snapshots of our lives: the quality and quantity of date production has markedly improved since 2009; the number of camels in the emirate has also increased by around a fifth.

Such surveys give an unvarnished insight into the world we live in and chart how our lives have changed and will continue to do so. They provide a data-driven account of the state of the nation. The Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi should be commended for this thorough survey, which will no doubt inform policymaking and strategy in years to come.