The importance of the problem
This paper is aimed at discussing such a problem as increased rates of divorce in the United Arab Emirates. There are several reasons why this issue deserves attention. First of all, it affects a great number of families in the country. For example, in urbanized parts of the country, such as Abu Dhabai, Dubai, or Sharjah, the divorce rate amounts to approximately 33 percent (Thomas 2013, p. 16). In this case, the rate can be viewed as a ratio of divorces to the total number of marriages within a year. Admittedly, one can mention that divorce rates are lower in the Northern Emirates, such as Umm al-Quwain or Ras Al Khaima (Thomas 2013, p. 16). In particular, in these regions, the rate does not exceed 15 percent. It is, however, necessary to keep in mind the fact that the majority of the Emirati people live in highly urbanized emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. The problem therefore manifests itself at the national scale and should not be overlooked.
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Furthermore, this issue should be considered because it can lead to a variety of adverse consequences. First of all, this trend can significantly impair the quality of children’s life. In particular, they may lack support that both parents should provide. Very often, children from divorced families struggle with such difficulties as divided loyalty, alienation, feeling of betrayal, and sense of insecurity (Darnall 2013, p. 138). In the future, they may find it difficult to establish relations with their peers (Darnall 2013, p. 138). Children can therefore be regarded as the major victims of divorce.
Second, the rising rates of divorce can increase immigration into the UAE. It should be mentioned that 78 percent of UAE nationals who have been divorced prefer to marry foreign women (Mornsen 2009, p. 63). In most cases, these women are financially dependent on their spouses. Moreover, divorce can be associated with such risks as drug or alcohol abuse (Darnall 2013, p. 138). One should also pay attention to such a problem as the demographic decline of the UAE population. In particular, researchers note that the mean births per women rates have decreased in the UAE from 6.4 in the seventies to 2.5 at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Thomas 2013, p. 15). This is another reason why this issue should be of great concern to policy makers.
The factors that contribute to this problem
It is possible to identify various factors that can underlie this trend. First of all, one should speak about the transformation of cultural attitudes toward marriage. In this case, much attention should be paid to the stereotypical belief according to which males should be the primary breadwinners in a family. In the past, this economic dependence often prevented women from leaving their husbands. This situation is, however, changing now. For example, researchers point out that growing employment and educational attainment among women are directly associated with the increased rates of divorce (Thomas 2013, p. 16). In particular, the rate of divorce is 47 percent among couples in which a wife has a university degree (Thomas 2013, p. 16).
Educated women believe that they can remain independent of males. In contrast, women who have only secondary education are less likely to divorce their husbands. Furthermore, it is vital to remember that a growing number of Emiratis prefer to marry foreign women. To some extent, this problem can be explained by the relatively high cost of dowry which must be given to the family of a bride (Abed, Hellyer, & Vine, 2006, p. 245). Similarly, Emiratis study and work in foreign countries, and during this time, they can marry foreigners (Mornsen 2009, p. 63). This trend increases the impact of cross-cultural differences on the life of families in the UAE. In many cases, these different attitudes toward gender roles can lead to multiple conflicts between spouses.
Additionally, it is important to speak about the growing urbanization and stressors that are associated with this process. For example, such challenges as increased traffic congestion, competitiveness in the labor market, and the need to work overtime can also contribute to conflicts within a family. One can also single out other specific events or factors that can result in divorce, for example, infidelity, loss of employment, or lack of communication between spouses.
The government can adopt several strategies in order to address this problem. First of all, public administrators should focus on the creation of family support centers in the major urban areas, such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. Such organizations should provide assistance to married people who intend to divorce. In many cases, these people cannot put themselves in the position of one another due to cultural differences (Benesh, 2008, p. 83). Additionally, such couples can be affected by such issues as work stress or different views on education of their children. Such difficulties can, however, be overcome. These spouses should be able to interact with professional family counselors who can assist them in resolving their conflicts.
For example, the experts can help couples reconcile their cultural differences (Gerstein, 2009, p. 467). Moreover, counselors can teach their clients to cope with stress. At present, many couples in the UAE cannot find such assistance. The main advantage of this alternative is that professionals will be able to find an individual approach to families. They are, therefore, more likely to find solutions that can benefit both spouses. Nevertheless, this approach has significant limitations. In particular, it does not encourage Emirati males to marry local women because they may be unwilling to pay the high cost of dowry in the UAE. They may therefore take brides from countries in which cultural norms are different. This is one of the short-comings that can be identified.
Secondly, some policy makers in the UAE emphasize the need to limit the immigration of foreign nationals into the country (Hasso, 2011, p. 7). At present, foreign women who come to the country eventually marry an Emirati. Similarly, many UAE nationals who study abroad choose to prefer to marry a foreign bride (Mornsen 2009, p. 63). As it has been said before, such spouses often have different perceptions of marriage. Some policy-makers therefore want to restrict the immigration of women whose age is lower than 30 (Hasso, 2011, p. 7). To a great extent, this policy can prompt Emiratis to marry local women since they will have fewer opportunities for taking a foreign bride. To some degree, such an approach can reduce the impact of cross-cultural conflicts on family.
This is the main advantage of the suggested alternative in comparison with the previous one. Nevertheless, this policy is not sufficient for addressing other factors that contribute to increased rates of divorce, for example, infidelity, work-related stressors, absence of communication, and so forth. They can undermine marriage even if the government offers economic assistance to Emirati families or limits the immigration into the UAE. This is the main limitation of the strategy, and it should be considered by public administrators who try to address the problem of increased divorce rates in the UAE.
There is another alternative which is available to the UAE policy makers. In particular, one should speak about monetary support that can be given to Emirati families. In this case, public administrators advocate the creation of marriage funds that are supposed to mitigate the high cost of dowry in the country (Epstein & Limage, 2008, p. 312). In other words, this approach is also supposed to encourage Emirati men to marry local women. It should be mentioned that such couples can receive financial assistance at the point when they live together for at least two years.
The main advantage of this strategy is that it minimizes the adverse effects of cross-cultural differences on family. It, however, has several important drawbacks. First of all, this policy does not mitigate other factors that can disrupt marriages. For example, one can mention infidelity or work-related issues. Secondly, this policy lays too much stress on financial assistance as one of the factors that strengthen the unity of families. Overall, the second and third alternatives are based on the premise that cross-cultural differences can be seen as the underlying causes of increased divorce rates.
The success of the chosen alternatives depends on the implementation strategies chosen by policy makers. First, the creation of family support centers should be guided by family therapists and psychologists who understand the problems that can be faced by Emirati couples. These professionals should develop a therapy that can best fit the needs of Emirati couples. Additionally, it is important to raise people’s awareness about the assistance that these organizations can offer to them.
In other words, people should not believe that divorce is the only solution to the problems that they encounter in the course of their daily lives. This task can be viewed as the most critical one because at present, many couples do not consider the possibility of going to a family counselor. There is a significant challenge associated with the implementation of this policy. In particular, it is necessary to identify a set of standards according to which the work of such organizations can be evaluated. Furthermore, the government will have to make significant investments in order to implement this policy.
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Second, the policy makers who emphasize the need to limit immigration should also focus on various aspects of their strategy implementation. First of all, they should identify a set of situations when they can deny foreign women access to the UAE. Many of them can be highly skilled professionals, and their expertise is needed by UAE companies. Public administrators must therefore first curb illegal immigration to the country because it poses a threat to the unity of many Emirati families (Hasso, 2011, p. 7). Additionally, they should not forget that many Emiratis can marry abroad, which is one of the drawbacks that should be taken into account. Policy makers should also keep in mind that by limiting immigration into the UAE, they may not prevent Emiratis from taking foreign brides. More importantly, this policy can be viewed as an infringement on the rights of the UAE citizens.
Third, it is possible to speak about financial assistance which can be offered to couples. At present, they can receive this assistance only if they live together for a certain period of time. At first, policy makers should develop a schedule for the distribution of this financial assistance. In particular, it may be provided in the course of ten or fifteen years. This decision can be explained by the need to minimize the role of monetary assistance as a form of a family tie. In this case, the main difficulty is that this approach can give rise to the misuse of governmental funds. For example, this money can be given to very prosperous people. In contrast, these funds can be better used for other purposes, such as education. This shortcoming should therefore not be overlooked by public administrators.
Overall, it is possible to argue that the first option is more preferable because it is more oriented toward individual problems faced by families. Provided that families can refer to a counselor, they will have an opportunity to cope with various stressors. Moreover, this strategy can help couples adjust to family life and understand the expectations that partners set for one another. This is the main solution that can be proposed to solve the problem of the divorce rates increase.
Abed, I., Hellyer, P., & Vine, P. (2006). United Arab Emirates Yearboook 2006. London: Trident Press Ltd.
Benesh, G. (2008). CultureShock! UAE: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette. New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish International Asia.
Darnall, P. (2008). Divorce Casualties: Keeping Your Children Close While You’re Breaking Apart. New York, NY: Taylor Trade Publications.
Epstein, I., & Limage, L. (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Children’s Issues Worldwide: North America and the Caribbean. New York, NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Gerstein, L. (2009). International Handbook of Cross-Cultural Counseling: Cultural Assumptions and Practices Worldwide. Boston, MA: SAGE.
Hasso, F. (2011). Consuming Desires: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Mornsen, J. (2009). Gender and Development. New York, NY: Routledge Thomas, J. (2013). Psychological Well-Being in the Gulf States: The New Arabia Felix. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.