The latest Emirati amendments of social laws have been widely regarded as a major step to grant greater personal freedoms to residents of the country where more than 88% of the population consists of expats, but how will these new changes affect the UAE’s economy?
On November 7, the Emirati government introduced a number of new rules changing civil and criminal codes in the country in addition to inheritance laws. According to the new laws, consensual relationships between adults will no longer be punishable, just as cohabitation between unmarried couples. However, sex with minors will be punishable by the death penalty.
Moreover, the new laws abolish the license required in the past for individuals to buy alcohol that has been available in shops and restaurants for several years now.
Additionally, the new laws will give UAE residents the option to choose between having the country’s divorce and inheritance laws that are all based on Islamic laws, or between the ones applied in their countries of origin, allowing different groups living in the country to live by their own rules.
Besides laws amendments touching on violations of “public decency,” the new laws criminalize the so-called “honor killings” and address them as murders, unlike older laws that granted killings of family members softer punishments.
These legal changes have been linked to the country’s attempts to be more “expat-friendly” especially as the Emirati economy sets to recovery after rough months that followed the coronavirus outbreak, which caused oil prices to drop sharply since last March and paralyzed the tourism industry.
Consequently, social reforms in the UAE have been meant to attract foreign expertise and investments, as the country plans to focus on diversifying its formerly oil-dependent economy.
Arabian Business has predicted the new rule allowing unwedded adult couples to live together to affect the real estate market, which has had a challenging year in the UAE and elsewhere.
According to a July report by the UAE-based property portal Bayut, the country has witnessed an average of 1% – 6% decline in both the sales and rental markets in Abu Dhabi’s most popular neighborhoods.
Similarly, a Knight Frank report revealed that Abu Dhabi’s “residential sales prices fell on average by 8.0% in the year by May 2020,” while rental rates “softened by 4.7% in the 12-months by May 2020.”
While some experts predicted the new rules to have a negative impact on the rentals market, as fewer individuals will have to rent their own homes from now on so that they can live together, others highlighted the fact that the new package of laws will encourage expats to consider buying their own houses in the UAE, as it becomes easier for families from countries with more relaxed social rules to imagine relocating to the country for the long-term, especially that life in the UAE provides very high standards often appreciated by residents regardless of their countries of origin.
What other efforts do you think should the UAE government consider to support its efforts to diversify the local economy in the post-COVID era?