The economy of the United Arab Emirates (or UAE) is the fourth largest in the Middle East (after Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran), with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$421 billion (AED 1.5 trillion) in 2020. More than 85% of the UAE's economy was based on the oil exports.

The following tables and chart will tell the change details in last 5-10 years:

UAE Distribution of workforce from the last 5 years:

Sector 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Agriculture 1.20% 1.14% 1.17% 1.09% 1.03%
Industries 33.22% 34.05% 34.15% 33.95% 33.83%
Services 65.58% 64.80% 64.68% 64.96% 65.14%

UAE Distribution of GDP across economic sectors:

Sector 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Agriculture 0.74% 0.78% 0.77% 0.74% 0.73%
Industries 43.89% 41.45% 42.57% 47.03% 46.16%
Services 55.37% 57.78% 56.65% 52.25% 53.11%

Here attached the last 10 years chart of UAE GDP: (amount in billion USD):


3 Sectors of the Economy – Agriculture, Industry and Services:

  • Agriculture:

Agriculture is an insignificant part in the UAE's economy. UAE is dependent on food imports. It employs almost 1.03% of the total workforce and contributed almost 0.73% in GDP.

Only about 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of land are cultivated. About 24% of cultivated land is used to grow vegetables, 30% fruit, 10% feed crops, and 36% for other uses. The main crops are tomatoes, melons, and dates.

Major product in this sector:

Date: UAE is the seventh major date producing country in the world, with 6% of the world's total date production. Date palm accounts for 15% of total area of crop cultivation in UAE, with Al Ain and Liwa occupying the central role for national date production. The UAE is the fourth largest exporter of the date fruit globally. According to the Dubai Chamber the value of the emirate's date trade reached $221 million in 2019. 

Agriculture Subsidy in UAE:

Both federal and emirate governments provide incentives to farmers. For example, the government offers a 50 percent subsidy on fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides. It also provides loans for machinery and technical assistance. The emirates have forty-one agricultural extension units as well as several experimental farms and agricultural research stations.

The government has supported traditional fishing in the rich waters off the UAE, an activity that has provided a livelihood for centuries along the coast. The government offers a 50 percent subsidy on fishing boats and equipment and has opened marine workshops that offer free repair and maintenance .

  • Industries:

Industries plays a significant role in the UAE's economy. It contributes almost 46.16% in the GDP and employs almost 33.83% of the total UAE's workforce.

Major Industries in this sector:

Oil: According to the UAE State of 能源 Report 2019, UAE has an estimated 98 billion barrels of oil reserves, of which: Abu Dhabi holds 94%, controlled by the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Dubai holds 4% (about 4 billion barrels). Sharjah holds 1.51 TP1T (about 1.5 billion barrels). About 30 per cent of the country's gross domestic product is directly based on oil and gas output. Since the discovery of oil in the UAE, the country has become a modern state with a high standard of living. 

  • Services:

Service sector is a significant part in the UAE's economy. It contributes almost 53% in the GDP and employed almost 65% of the total UAE's workforce.

Major Industries in this sector:

Finance: In 2019, finance and insurance sector contributed about 70.5 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams (almost 8% of the GDP) to the preliminary estimated value of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The total estimated GDP of the emirate for that year was about 915 billion dirhams.

Tourism: Dubai's tourism industry welcomed an all-time high 16.73 million international overnight visitors in 2019, a 5.1 percent increase compared to the previous year. According to Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) revealed a 11.5 percent contribution to the emirate's GDP, capturing direct international tourism spending worth $27.9 billion.

Top Companies in UAE:

Company Name Sector Forbes 2000 Rank
First Abu Dhabi Bank Banking 333
Etisalat Telecommunication 384
Emirates Group Airline 510
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank Banking 784
Emaar Properties Real Estate 827
DP World Transportation 851
Dubai Islamic Bank Banking 926
Mashreq Banking 1468
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Banking 1473

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