UAE residents optimistic about future but cyber crime and jobs among worries

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 showed the Emirates among the most trusting nations

People surveyed in the UAE included a mixture of Emiratis and residents. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The UAE has leapt up the ranks when it comes to trust in business, government, NGOs and media, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer.

A breakdown of the global report shows the Emirates' individual results also indicate an overall increase in economic optimism, as well as a rise in fears of societal problems, such as climate change.

Seventy eight per cent of respondents believed they and their families would be better off in five years time than they are now. This compares to a global average of 51 per cent.

Nine countries registered a record low for economic optimism, according to the report that has been issued annually for the past 22 years.

The global report, which was released in January, showed the UAE jumped four places into second position, with China taking the top spot.

For the second year running, Russia was ranked bottom, signalling a continuing distrust in the media and government.

Completing the top five positions were Indonesia, India and Saudi Arabia, respectively.

Twenty seven countries were surveyed in November, gathering answers and opinions from more than 36,000 people. Each country had at least 1,150 respondents.

People surveyed in the UAE included a mixture of Emiratis and residents.

This year's report, titled The Cycle of Distrust, showed that governments and the media around the world are creating an atmosphere where distrust is the default setting. Only 50 per cent of people on average trusted the media, with governments faring only slightly better at 52 per cent.

In the UAE, the government, business, NGOs and the media are all considered trustworthy, although media scored the lowest at 64 per cent. Perception of business rose by 11 points to 78 per cent, and the government came top, with 87 per cent of respondents saying they felt they could trust authorities.

"If you look closely the UAE has bucked the trend in terms of economic optimism globally, so it's up 8 points compared to last year," said Omar Qirem, chief executive of Edelman Middle East.

"And that is because there is trust in all four key institutions and the government has been very proactive and transparent about what it's doing."

When surveyed about whether the government and media were unifying or divisive forces, the global response said the two entities were not uniting people, unlike business and NGOs.

Worldwide, about six in 10 say their default tendency is to distrust something until they see evidence to the contrary.

On the topic of societal fears, 90 per cent of UAE respondents said they were worried about losing their jobs, compared with 85 per cent globally, while 75 per cent cited concerns over climate change, a seven-point increase from last year.

Mr Qirem said increased fear of job loss resulted mainly from "the increased digitisation and automation of certain roles, the increased competition within roles as more and more people come into the market, and lastly the change in terms of efficiency and savings".

"So, the world is becoming smaller where globalisation is happening, so people are fearful that over time their roles might change."

When asked about safety online, seventy four per cent said they were worried about cyber attacks, only 3 per cent higher than the global average, while 66 per cent were concerned about experiencing prejudice or racism, compared with 57 per cent worldwide.

Seventy-six per cent of respondents said they were concerned about fake news being used as a weapon, with the UAE's score coming in slightly lower at 72 per cent, eight points higher than it was last year.

Averaging out trust scores across all categories, there was a clear 11-point difference in the Emirates between high-income and low-income earners surveyed.

This has been a consistent trend over the past ten years, despite an overall increase in trust in recent years. The global difference stands at 15 points.

Thailand had the greatest income-based trust inequality, with a difference of 36 points, while Saudi Arabia came in second, with a difference of 27 points.

When it comes to debate, more and more people believe disagreeing on a matter in a civil manner is moving further out of reach.

In the UAE, only 51 per cent of people agreed that it was possible to have a constructive debate about issues disagreed on by other people.

Globally, 64 per cent of people thought others lacked the ability to courteously disagree.

Updated: March 24, 2022, 4:37 AM