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Come to the UAE and Never Die

September 15th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, UAE

I was going to approach this another way … about how few people I see in this country who look as if they might be older than I am.

But this is a more fun way to look at it, no? The “never die” part of it.

The United Arab Emirates has the world’s lowest death rate. Who says? Both the United Nations and the CIA World Factbook. It doesn’t seem to be in dispute.

Why is that? Actually, it isn’t that complicated.

For starters, medical care here is quite good. We have really comprehensive medical through our employers, as do many others. And I have never been anywhere that has as many clinics/little hospitals/big hospitals as does Abu Dhabi. One per block, it seems. Really.

But the biggest factor driving that annual death rate of about 2 per thousand persons … isn’t diet or medical care or climate or lifestyle.

It’s demographics.

There are very few old or sick people here. For one main reason: If you are not a citizen, you cannot stay here without a job.

If you can’t go to work, if you can’t keep a job … you must leave the country. And people in poor health usually can’t work.

No job/gotta go … isn’t just for those who are sick. It’s for anyone. This is not a place where unemployed expats can hang around. You are working … or you are not here. That’s how it goes. Everyone knows the situation. If you are laid off (or laid low by illness), you are heading out of the country. Unless you get back to work.

The exceptions are citizens of the UAE, who of course don’t have to leave when they get old and feeble. But Emiratis account for only 15 percent of the UAE’s population. So even if they die at a rate roughly equal to people in a First World country — and I suspect the numbers are about the same, given the medical care available to nationals — the death-rate number stays so low because Emiratis make up only about 1 million of the 7 million or so people living in the UAE at the moment. That is, deaths among citizens are statistically swamped.

Most of the 6 million expats here are young or at least young-ish. (It is quite difficult to get a UAE work visa if you are over 60 years old.) Young people tend not to die, and when they are well-nourished, as they are here, and the basic communicable diseases are under control …

So, the typical expat comes here when he is in his 20s,  he work for a few years or even 30, but he never gains citizenship and when he is no longer able to keep a job, he must leave the country.

So, yes, it’s true that very few people die in the UAE. The death rate in the U.S. is about 4-5 times as high; in England it’s about 5-6 times as high and in many African countries it is 10-15 times as high.

Deaths here are pretty much confined to the fraction of natural deaths among the Emirati population (which skews young, by the way), and sudden death among expats. Car crashes and heart attacks, mostly.

Thus, just about nobody here dies. That’s true.

So, should we feel immortal now that we are here?

Of course not. Everyone currently living and working in the UAE, is going to die.

The thing is, they almost certainly will die somewhere else.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Norman // Dec 12, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    Given the UAE’s own statistics point to a fatality rate of 4 per 1000 from car accidents alone I wonder how anyone can say people don’t dies as much in the UAE.

    Just today the father of one of my son’s classmates passed away in an propeller accident.

    I used to work with a major international insurer and every month the death claims were almost always younger men between 30-40…old people are the only ones less likely to die in the UAE because the UAE generally kicks them out :o)

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