The National has a front page story on divorce rates in the UAE. Money quote:
Figures released by the ministry in Sharjah last week indicated that the divorce rate in the emirate had gone up from 26 per cent in 2001 to 33.9 per cent in 2008. Fresh statistics presented to the FNC yesterday showed the rate in Sharjah was now about 31 per cent, but 60 per cent of those divorces involved Emirati couples.
I’m guessing divorce rate here means the ratio of marriages to divorces. Finding good divorce statistics is a challenge. Divorce per capita (number of divorces per 1,000 individuals) is actually a fairly meaningless measure, since it means you’re ignoring people who can’t get married yet. For Arab countries with uncharacteristically high youth populations, it’s even more problematic.
Marriage to divorce ratio is more interesting. The problem is that it conflates two different segments within a single population, and obscures the rate of change. Wikipedia explains:
However, this measurement compares two unlike populations. Say there exists a community with 100,000 married couples, and very few people capable of marriage, for reasons such as age. If 1,000 people obtain divorces and 1,000 people get married in the same year, the ratio is one divorce for every marriage, which may lead people to think that the community’s relationships are extremely unstable, despite the number of married people not changing.
Both sets of statistics would obviously have their advantages and disadvantages. The lack of numbers in general is symptomatic of the actual problem.
Sharjah’s problematic statistics, aside from not being representative of the Emirates in general, are actually about middle of the road, especially for a developing country. According to statistics from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, Sharjah’s divorce rate is actually lower than that of Japan, which retains one of the lowest divorce rates in the G8 (may it rest in peace).
Another disagreeable statistic is from the UN’s demographics yearbook, which lists the number of divorces in the UAE between 2002 and 2004. It’s fairly stable as a matter of fact, with 3,390 divorces in 2002, 3,243 in 2003, and 3,577 in 2004.
There’s more. The CIA World Factbook projects that the UAE’s population growth is around 3.7% per annum. Projecting back from the 2005 census, which placed the UAE population at 4,104,695, the population in 2004 would have been approximately 3.95 million. That’s 0.9 divorces for every 1,000 individuals, which is reasonably low. Something’s a bit off.
Even the 18,000 divorced and widowed Emirati women figure is not particularly high. 18,000 women is 4.4% of the Emirati female population in the 2005 census. Even when accounting for the increase in population, the figure remains spectacularly low compared to the US, whose 2005 census results showed that a staggering 51% of American women were living without a spouse.
Is Sharjah just not that indicative of the general, national trend? Are the numbers not particularly alarming? You make the call.
What is actually alarming is the fact that 60% of Sharjah’s divorces where among Emirati women, which is hugely disproportionate since locals make up under 15% of the UAE’s population. I’d be interested in reading some numbers comparing divorce rates among nationals and expatriates in the other emirates before I’m willing to conclude that a trend exists.