Population of Dubai

The city of Dubai is a bustling metropolis that is home to a diverse population. From its humble beginnings as a fishing village in the 19th century, it has grown into a thriving city that is home to people from all over the world.

Current Population Statistics

According to the Dubai Statistics Center (part of the Government of Dubai) the current resident population of Dubai is 3,532,238 (figure last updated on Sunday 2nd of October 2022).

It is the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), surpassing Abu Dhabi which is the largest emirate by area. The majority of the population are expatriates.

The city has seen a population boom in recent years, due in part to its rapidly growing economy. The growth is expected to continue in the coming years.

Expatriate workers at Al Ghubaiba Metro Station
Expatriate workers at Al Ghubaiba Metro Station

Active Daytime Population

The active daytime population is much higher than the resident population. This is because the city is a major hub for business and tourism.

Every day, Dubai workers who live outside the city commute in. Many live in the neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah where rents are significantly cheaper.

The city also attracts huge numbers of tourists from all around the world. Popular source markets include India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the UK. Annual tourist numbers far exceed the local population size.

Tourists at Deira Old Souk Abra Station
Tourists at Deira Old Souk Abra Station

The table below shows the resident, temporary, and active daytime (resident + temporary) population by year from 2016 to 2021.

YearPermanent ResidentsTemporary ResidentsActive Daytime PopulationIncrease/(Decrease)Increase/(Decrease) %
2016 2,698,600 1,110,000 3,808,600
2017 2,976,455 1,186,565 4,163,020 354,420 9.31
2018 3,192,275 1,190,000 4,382,275 219,255 5.27
2019 3,355,900 1,196,000 4,551,900 169,625 3.87
2020 3,411,200 1,009,170 4,420,370 {131,530}{2.89)
2021 3,478,300 1,063,375 4,541,675 121,305 2.74

The COVID-19 pandemic had had a significant impact on the active daytime population. In 2020, the number of tourists and workers decreased sharply as a result of the pandemic, leading to a decrease in the active daytime population.

Tourists at the Dubai Frame
Tourists at the Dubai Frame

However, the population began to increase in 2021, although at a slower rate than the pre-pandemic increases. This is because many workers had not yet returned to the city and tourism had not fully recovered.

Expatriate workers near the Gold Souk in Deira
Expatriate workers near the Gold Souk in Deira

Demographics – Nationalities, Males and Females

According to the Dubai Statistics Center, at the end of 2021, only about 8 per cent of Dubai’s resident population were Emirati citizens. The rest were expatriates, drawn to the city from other countries in search of work or opportunity.

While the Dubai Statistics Center does not give a detailed breakdown of the city’s population by nationality, the United Nations estimates that 40 per cent of the total number of migrants in the UAE are from India. Other large groups making up the UAE population are from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, and the Philippines. The Western expatriate population includes those from the UK, France, and the US. As Dubai has the largest population in the UAE, it is safe to say that the Dubai statistics will be similar.

Expatriate workers at the Waterfront Market, Deira
Expatriate workers at the Waterfront Market, Deira

This diversity is one of the things that makes Dubai such an exciting and vibrant place to live. With so many different cultures represented, there is always something new to learn and experience.

YearMalesFemalesTotal% Males% Females
1975 128,821 54,366 183,187 70.3229.68
1980 187,714 88,587 276,301 67.9432.06
1985 247,179 123,609 370,788 66.6633.34
1993 406,128 204,798 610,926 66.4833.52
1995 478,209 211,211 689,420 69.3630.64
2000 611,799 250,588 862,387 70.9429.06
2005 989,305 332,148 1,321,453 74.8625.14
2006 1,073,485 348,327 1,421,812 75.5024.50
2007 1,164,576 365,216 1,529,792 76.1323.87
2008 1,263,130 382,843 1,645,973 76.7423.26
2009 1,369,740 401,238 1,770,978 77.3422.66
2010 1,485,046 420,430 1,905,476 77.9422.06
2011 1,515,770 487,400 2,003,170 75.6724.33
2012 1,547,135 558,740 2,105,875 73.4726.53
2013 1,579,145 634,700 2,213,845 71.3328.67
2014 1,613,175 714,175 2,327,350 69.3130.69
2015 1,703,355 743,320 2,446,675 69.6230.38
2016 1,888,520 810,080 2,698,600 69.9830.02
2017 2,088,870 887,585 2,976,455 70.1829.82
2018 2,233,390 958,885 3,192,275 69.9630.04
2019 2,331,800 1,024,100 3,355,900 69.4830.52
2020 2,362,255 1,048,945 3,411,200 69.2530.75
2021 2,400,100 1,078,200 3,478,300 69.0031.00

At the end of 2021, 69 per cent of the permanent resident population was male and 31 per cent female. This gender distortion is largely due to the large number of foreign male workers who do not relocate with their families. Many of these workers are construction workers, typically living in labour camps.

Expatriate workers crossing the Dubai Creek by abra
Expatriate workers crossing the Dubai Creek by abra

The city has always been a magnet for foreign workers, drawn by the promise of higher wages and better opportunities than in their home countries. Much of the work is in construction, a male-dominated industry. Many of these jobs are low-paid so these workers are less likely to bring their families with them when they relocate to Dubai. This has led to a low female population and a disproportionately male city.

Tourists and expatriate workers at Union Metro Station
Tourists and expatriate workers at Union Metro Station

Demographics – Age Groups

At the end of 2021, 43 per cent of the population of Dubai was concentrated in the 25-44 male age group. This unnatural age and gender distribution were due to the large proportion of foreign workers in the city, most of whom are working-age males.

Male workers in the Deira area of Dubai
Male workers in the Deira area of Dubai
Age GroupMalesFemalesTotalTotal %Male % of TotalFemale % of Total
0 - 4 95,803 88,852 184,655 5.312.752.55
5 - 9 88,789 90,343 179,132 5.152.552.60
10 - 14 77,240 75,633 152,873 4.402.222.17
15 - 19 60,568 55,529 116,097 3.341.741.60
20 - 24 194,242 78,347 272,589 7.845.582.25
25 - 29 427,584 149,207 576,791 16.5812.294.29
30 - 34 462,090 161,278 623,368 17.9213.284.64
35 - 39 329,920 134,322 464,242 13.359.493.86
40 - 44 277,686 92,491 370,177 10.647.982.66
45 - 49 183,556 53,173 236,729 6.815.281.53
50 - 54 83,657 41,774 125,431 3.612.411.20
55 - 59 66,527 26,512 93,039 2.671.910.76
60 - 64 29,095 14,200 43,295 1.240.840.41
65 - 69 13,301 6,301 19,602 0.560.380.18
70 - 74 4,524 4,476 9,000 0.260.130.13
75 + 5,518 5,762 11,280 0.320.160.17
Total 2,400,100 1,078,200 3,478,300 100.0069.0031.00

While this may seem like a good thing for the local economy, it can lead to some social problems. For example, it can be difficult for these young males to find partners and start families when there is such a large pool of competition.

Expatriates near Baniyas Square Metro Station
Expatriates near Baniyas Square Metro Station

Factors Contributing to Population Growth

Over the past few decades, Dubai has experienced a population boom. Many factors have contributed to the high growth rate. They include:

  • A strong economy – One of the primary reasons for Dubai’s population growth is the city’s booming economy. In the past few decades, the city has transformed itself into a global business hub. The city is now home to some of the world’s largest businesses and most successful entrepreneurs. This influx of wealth has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, drawing people from all over the world to Dubai in search of employment.
  • Liberal visa policies – Dubai offers visas to people from all over the world, which has made it a popular destination for immigrants.
  • Tax-free income and investment opportunities – Dubai is one of the few places in the world where you can earn tax-free income. This, combined with the city’s many investment opportunities, makes it an attractive destination for people looking to boost their earnings.
  • Fantastic infrastructure – To accommodate its rapidly growing population, Dubai has invested billions of dollars into improving its infrastructure. New hospitals and schools have sprung up all over the city in recent years. The city is increasingly becoming more accessible, owing to modern transportation systems like the Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram. An extension to the Dubai Metro Red Line connecting Jebel Ali to the Expo 2020 site opened in 2021. These changes have made the city an appealing place for migrant workers to call home.
  • Safety and security – The city is one of the safest in the world, which has made it attractive to families and individuals looking for a place to live.
  • Political stability – Dubai is an incredibly stable city politically. It has avoided many of the conflicts and turmoil that have plagued other parts of the Middle East over the years. This stability has made it an attractive place for people from all over the world to live and work.
  • A vibrant culture – Another contributing factor to Dubai’s population growth is the city’s vibrant culture. The city is home to people from all walks of life, and this diversity is reflected in its food, music, and art scenes. Large shopping malls such as the Dubai Mall house not only shops, but restaurants, cinemas, and attractions. There is always something exciting going on in Dubai, making it an attractive place to live for people who are looking for a stimulating and fast-paced lifestyle.
  • Climate – Dubai’s hot climate and year-round sunshine are also major contributing factors to its population growth.
  • Development of new residential areas – Recent years have seen the development of a large number of residential areas, including many with affordable housing options. Established areas such as Bur Dubai and Deira also offer cheap accommodation to the expat population. This has made Dubai more accessible to low and middle-income earners, further boosting the city’s population.
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

The population boom is the result of a perfect storm of economic growth, improved infrastructure, and a great quality of life. With no signs of slowing down, it seems likely that Dubai’s population will continue to grow for many years to come.

Affordable apartments in Al Qusais, near Dubai Airport Free Zone Metro Station
Affordable apartments in Al Qusais, near Dubai Airport Free Zone Metro Station

Future Population Growth – Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040

The Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040 is a comprehensive long-term planning initiative that will guide the development of the city over the next two decades. The plan was unveiled in 2021 by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It sets out a vision for a sustainable, liveable and inclusive city.

One of the key aims of the master plan is to improve connectivity between different parts of Dubai, making it easier for residents and visitors to move around the city. The plan also includes proposals for new parks and green spaces, as well as more pedestrian-friendly streets and public transport options.

In addition, the master plan includes a range of measures to promote economic growth and attract investment. The plan foresees the resident population to increase to 5.8 million by 2040. The active daytime population is expected to reach 7.8 million.

Overall, the Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040 is an ambitious yet achievable blueprint for the future development of one of the world’s most dynamic cities.

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