UAE cities rated best to live and work in Arab World

The UAE cities - Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah - have been rated the best cities to live in the Arab World where there's is least red tapism, offering better job opportunities, better overall quality of life and competitive salaries, said a survey released on Monday.

The 'Top Cities of the Middle East' survey, conducted by Bayt.com and YouGov, has identified the top cities in the Middle East in terms of several wide-ranging factors - from economic to environmental - that affect residents' life.

According to the survey's respondents, the top five cities in the Arab world to live in are, in order: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Manama, and Muscat. The survey factored in economic factors, entrepreneurial factors, labour rights, environmental factors, everyday life, socio-cultural factors, and quality of life.

Economic factors

Job availability across the region is considered to be "average" in most cities. Riyadh is considered to have the highest possibility of employment with 49 per cent stating that the availability of jobs is either "good" or "excellent". Doha comes second with 49 per cent, followed by Jeddah (38 per cent), Abu Dhabi (37 per cent) and Dubai (34 per cent). The city considered to have the lowest employment opportunities is Beirut.

Doha is considered to have the most competitive salaries according to 44 per cent of respondents, though Abu Dhabi follows closely behind with 41 per cent. Other cities offering compensation that is considered to be high are Riyadh (40 per cent), Dubai (38 per cent) and Sharjah (30 per cent). On the other end of the spectrum Damascus and Amman are considered to offer the lowest salaries, with 68 per cent respondents for each voting bad/poor.

The most affordable housing can be found in Sharjah, with 47 per cent of its residents claiming residential costs are "good" or "excellent". This is followed by Manama with 44 per cent, and Muscat with 34 per cent, while Damascus comes in last with 76 per cent stating that the housing price situation is either "bad" or "poor". Beirut and Algiers come in close behind with 74 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively.

Four out of ten respondents (42 per cent) in Manama state that it is it is excellent in terms of affordability in terms of cost of living. Riyadh and Sharjah, with 30 per cent and 29 per cent respectively, are also considered to be affordable, whereas Amman and Beirut are seen to be the most expensive by its residents. Manama also comes out top in terms of affordable utilities, followed by Kuwait City and Riyadh; Beirut and Amman rank lowest.

Entrepreneurship factors

Would-be entrepreneurs of Sharjah (43 per cent) and Dubai (40 per cent) rate their cities highly in terms of 'ease of starting up new businesses'. On the other end only 18 per cent those from Damascus state that it's easy to start a new business in Damascus, making it one of the most challenging city.

Cities in the UAE, are rated highly by their residents for their "lack of bureaucracy in procedures and paperwork;" Dubai receives highest rating with four out of ten respondents, followed closely by Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, each with 38 per cent.

The survey shows that finding finances to start a new business is difficult in general across the region, though it is seen as being easy to find funding in Abu Dhabi, according to 40 per cent. New businesses starting up in Damascus, Aleppo, Amman and Cairo will have the most difficulties securing financial support.

When it comes to new ideas and innovation, 56 per cent of respondents state that Dubai is most receptive, followed by Sharjah (52 per cent), while those cities most opposed to rocking the boat are Rabat, Amman (both with 48 per cent), and Marrakech (43 per cent) where reception of new ideas is bad/poor according to residents.

Labour Rights

End of service benefits are seen as being highest in GCC cities, especially in Sharjah (44 per cent), Abu Dhabi (42 per cent), Manama (42 per cent) and Kuwait City (41 per cent). Abu Dhabi and Manama also rank highest in terms of employee satisfaction with termination rights, with 41 per cent each. Employees in Beirut believe they are worst off with 66 per cent stating that their end of service benefits are either "bad" or "poor", and 64 per cent claiming their termination rights are just as bad.

Manama , according to 53 per cent, is good/ excellent in terms of their vacation allowances. Also, respondents in Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait City also ranked their allotted annual leave days highly. The statistics show least ratings received by Cairo (only 18 per cent).

Beirut receives extremely negative ratings with 73 per cent stating their level of wage protection is "bad" or "poor". Cities in the UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi (44 per cent), rated positively with regards to the wage protection system. It has also scored highly in terms of 'provision for health insurance', followed by Riyadh and Jeddah.

Environmental factors

The city with the least perceived air pollution is Muscat, according to 70 per cent of the city's residents, while Abu Dhabi ranked second with 61 per cent. Dubai and Sharjah earned 54 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively, while the cities voted with the cleanest water are Muscat, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both tied with 91 per cent of respondents each claiming that their city has the cleanest roads and streets, followed by Muscat with 81 per cent.

Almost three quarters (71 per cent) of Muscat-based respondents believe their city has low levels of noise pollution, with Abu Dhabi coming in second (64 per cent), Dubai third (56 per cent) and Sharjah a close fourth (55 per cent).

Residents of Abu Dhabi voted their city as good/ excellent in terms of having greenery (68 per cent), closely followed by Muscat where 67 per cent of respondents also claim that their city has substantial green areas.

Cairo scored lowest across the board, with seven out of ten (68 per cent) of Cairo residents claiming that their city has the least clean roadways; 74 per cent of residents stating it as having the most polluted air; 65 per cent stating that the level of water pollution is 'bad' or 'poor'; 72 per cent stating that noise pollution levels are high; and 58 per cent stating that there are few green areas in the city.

Muscat and Abu Dhabi both rated consistently high throughout this section of the survey, suggesting the Omani and UAE capitals may be the best cities in the region in terms of the environment.

Everyday life

Following on from its high positioning in terms of green areas, cities in the UAE - Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah - rank highest in terms of the availability of parks and community recreation areas, followed by Muscat.

Abu Dhabi receives highest ratings in terms of availability of quality healthcare facilities with seven out of ten residents (70 per cent) rating the available health care facilities as 'good' or 'excellent'. Manama ranks second (65 per cent) in terms of availability of medical facilities, and the respondents from Bahrain's capital rank the quality of health-care higher than that available elsewhere.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai claim the top two spots for good/excellent availability of public utilities (84 per cent and 82 per cent respectively), as well as for good/excellent accessibility of their public transportation systems (77 per cent for Dubai and 70 per cent for Abu Dhabi) - the quality of which is considered to be predominantly 'excellent'.

Traffic congestion is lowest in Abu Dhabi and Manama, according to 42 per cent and 40 per cent of respondents respectively, while Cairo's roads are thought to be busiest. Pedestrian walkways/footpaths are provided for most in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and least in Cairo.

Entertainment venues are most plentiful in Dubai, according to 85 per cent of survey respondents, followed by Abu Dhabi, Beirut (both at 73 per cent) and Manama (72 per cent).

The majority of Beirut residents (71 per cent) state that the availability of educational facilities in their city is high; they also claim that the quality of education is high, with statistics ranking it the highest in the region. Educational options and the quality thereof in Sharjah comes second, followed by Dubai - though Abu Dhabi residents rank their scholastic facilities as being of higher quality than the latter.

Access to convenience stores are most easy in Dubai, according to 84 per cent of respondents; Abu Dhabi and Sharjah follow closely with 82 per cent each, Manama comes third with 77 per cent, and Alexandria and Amman fourth with 76 per cent each.

Social-cultural factors

Residents of Tunis have rated their city very highly (63 per cent good/ excellent) on equality amongst genders. Levels of equality are also perceived to be high in Muscat (60 per cent) and Manama (55 per cent).

The residents of Aleppo (73 per cent) believe that their society is fair to all nationalities, this being highest in the region. Also Tunis, Manama and Marrakech respondents also state a high level of acceptance. On the other hand, Kuwait City is seen as having the least fair treatment of all nationalities (according to 66 per cent of respondents), followed by Riyadh (64 per cent) and Jeddah (61 per cent) - which are seen less tolerant by its residents. For those cities that do embrace multicultural societies, Muscat comes top with 73 per cent of respondents stating tolerance is 'good' or 'excellent'; Marrakech and Abu Dhabi both garnered 69 per cent each, followed by Dubai and Rabat (both with 67 per cent).

Cities in the UAE are believed to have the most effective law enforcement, with 79 per cent of Abu Dhabi respondents stating that law enforcement in their city is 'good' or 'excellent'. Sharjah follows with 76 per cent, with 75 per cent of Dubai respondents claiming the same. Hand in hand with this, Abu Dhabi is also seen to have the lowest crime rates (81 per cent state that low crime rates are 'good' or 'excellent'); 75 per cent of Dubai respondents and 70 per cent of Sharjah respondents feel the same. In Doha, however, crime rates are considered low by 78 per cent of respondents.

Overall quality of life

The residents of Dubai claim to have a high quality of life, with 73 per cent ranking their lifestyle as either 'good' or 'excellent', while Abu Dhabi's residents ranked it second with 70 per cent. People are most dissatisfied with the quality of life in Beirut and Damascus, though Algiers comes a close third.

When asked if they would like to move to another city, the highest positive response came from Algiers, with 77 per cent looking to leave, followed by Casablanca with 73 per cent, and Tunis with 71 per cent. The majority of residents across the region who expressed a desire to relocate would prefer to move to another city in a different region - except in the case of Abu Dhabi (where majority would prefer to move to a different city within UAE itself). Abu Dhabi also has the second lowest rate of residents wanting to relocate (43 per cent), coming second to Dubai (33 per cent), among those 52 per cent would prefer to move to a different city within the UAE itself.

Data for the poll was collected online from June 24 to July 4 2012, with 9,038 respondents covering more than 12 countries in the Mena region. The results depicted above are based on a sample size of 6013, which is formed by the respondents of all the major cities in the region

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