Newly published data from Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (Scad) reveals the dizzying pace of change in the emirate over the past few decades. As The National reported yesterday, the population is now 133 times what it was in 1960, having grown at an average annual rate of 9.5 per cent. While the number of citizens doubled 46 times, the non-citizen population increased 243-fold. This dramatic change has affected almost every aspect of life.
Abu Dhabi society has changed and its citizens are open to many external influences. The influx of workers of more than 200 nationalities has brought different values and new norms, and created a highly diverse environment. The rapid evolution of the country has seen the development of important institutions, including schools and universities.
While many changes have been widely welcomed, there are those among the older generation who perceive a negative impact and feel that young people have lost touch with their roots and traditions. As the veteran Emirati tour guide Hamad Saeed Al Ketbi told The National, young people no longer appreciate the past and don't make enough effort to preserve it.
The UAE of today is undoubtedly different from the one of generations past. But that doesn’t mean it is worse. Society is affected by many things: better health care means people live longer and more children survive. Cultural changes mean more women go into higher education and employment and therefore delay marriage. All of these changes have disrupted traditional family structures, but it’s not clear that the changes in themselves are bad. Rather, it is the way society has reacted to them that provokes mixed feelings.
It is vital to remember and respect the past; previous generations built the society we see around us.
At the same time, it is necessary to trust young people. They were born at a set point in time, with the cultural norms and social expectations of that time. The society they create will similarly be forged by the requirements of the day and, in turn, will influence the succeeding generations – and all will look back to their youth as some kind of golden age while bemoaning most of what has happened since.