Abu Dhabi's population reaches almost 3.8 million, census reveals

Number of employed people in the emirate rises by 80 per cent since 2011

People stream at a pedestrian crossing near Marina Mall on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 5, 2014. (Silvia Razgova / The National)

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Abu Dhabi's population rose to just under 3.8 million last year, a sharp increase of 83 per cent since 2011, official figures show.

The emirate's workforce has almost doubled in the same period, while the emirate is home to twice as many males as females.

The findings were based on data from the Abu Dhabi census last year, which was shared this week.

The significant population surge has coincided with a rise in real estate stock, to house the growing number of citizens and expatriates.

Data from the Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi showed that 3,789,860 people were living in the emirate, 67 per cent of whom were male.

The median age of Abu Dhabi's population was 33, according to Abu Dhabi Media Office.

“This is an important step towards strengthening national efforts to improve the quality of services and support comprehensive development plans in the emirate of Abu Dhabi,” said Ahmed Tamim Hisham Al Kuttab, chairman of the Department of Government Enablement – Abu Dhabi, and chairman of the Higher Census Committee.

“The census’ output support the decision-making process and monitoring of variables and trends that government entities rely on in formulating economic and social programmes and policies, as well as supporting the private sector and investors with accurate data that enhances investment in the emirate.”

The Abu Dhabi region, with a population of 2,495,925 people, was the largest in terms of population, 66 per cent of the total population of the emirate.

This was followed by the Al Ain region, with a population of 1,009,735 people, 27 per cent of the total population of Abu Dhabi, while the Al Dhafra region had 284,205 inhabitants, seven per cent of the total population, the media office reported.

These numbers represent an 82 per cent increase in the employed population since 2011, bringing the total employment to 2,522,390 individuals.

The employed workforce is divided into 46 per cent white-collar workers, a category that has seen a 109 per cent surge since 2011, and 54 per cent blue-collar workers, a group that has experienced 65 per cent growth compared to 2011.

“This data highlights the dynamic expansion and diversity of the workforce in Abu Dhabi,” read a statement from the emirate's media office.

Abu Dhabi also witnessed a 66 per cent increase in the number of residential and non-residential units since 2011, totalling 754,555 units.

Of these, residential units account for 58 per cent with 441,410 units, while non-residential units make up the remaining 42 per cent with 313,145 units.

“This growth is a testament to the positive effects of the continuous infrastructure developments undertaken by the emirate in recent years,” the media office said.

The 2023 census was the first of its kind since 2011, when the population of the emirate was 2,073,307. In 1995, the population of Abu Dhabi was 942,463.

The census was compiled using data already readily available, such as rental contracts, school registrations, and employment records.

The findings mirror those of other recent census studies carried out across the country, which highlighted a major increase in population.

A Sharjah census released in May 2023 showed the emirate's population had reached 1.8 million, up from 1.4 million in 2015.

Dubai Statistics Centre’s population counter, which records growth using residency visa data, showed the city hit 3.5 million in April 2022.

The emirate's population has since surpassed 3.7 million, the site showed on Wednesday.

Planned growth

Dr David Roberts, a senior lecturer at King’s College London and an editor of the Elements in Middle East Politics series published by Cambridge University Press, said Abu Dhabi’s growth had been "more controlled" when compared to some other parts of the region.

"It’s been a bit slower and more controlled and more systematically oriented perhaps, less at the whim of market pressures and a bit more top-down oriented," he said.

"The government has had more planned growth in that sense."

He said that while populations in the region were likely to continue to grow, expansion may not be at the pace seen up to now.

"I am not sure there are great advantages in continuing the growth," he said. "The states are already fairly substantially sized. They’ve got a reasonable critical mass. Things are going quite well at the moment."

Dr Roberts said that a key sector in the economy was apartment building, which means "there’s a certain trend and pressure for continued expansion in these sectors" despite the high level of provision already present.

Keeping emirate on the move

Dr Alexandra Gomes, a research fellow at the London School of Economics and an author of a previously published report, "Roads (dis)connecting cities and neighbourhoods: a socio-spatial study of Abu Dhabi," told of the need to bolster public transport services to meet the needs of a growing population.

She said the capital’s road network had "expanded in both length and width" as the population has grown.

However, she said that some of the population growth has involved demographic groups who "may not have access to cars or drive".

"This makes it crucial to consider the role and development of a better public transport network," she said. "In Abu Dhabi, some areas that have been developed in the last decade continue to promote lower densities and have low bus accessibility and frequency, creating challenges, in particular, for those who don’t drive."

Dr Gomes said that introducing a metro system in Abu Dhab "would significantly improve the local public transport network".

It would eventually reduce car usage for communiting, if UAE nationals and white-collar workers could be attracted to it, she suggested.

Updated: June 12, 2024, 1:22 PM