Almost Two-Thirds of UAE Professionals Prefer to Be Self-Employed, Finds & YouGov Survey


Personal fulfillment (53%) and freedom to choose work-life balance (46%) are the top reasons for preferring to be self-employed

Ola Haddad, Director of Human Resources at

UAE: A new survey conducted by, the Middle East’s #1 job site, and market research agency, YouGov, entitled ‘Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa 2021’ has found that almost two-thirds (62%) of UAE residents prefer to be self-employed/have their own business if given the choice. 

The survey found that personal fulfillment (53%) and freedom to choose work-life balance (46%) emerge as the top reasons for preferring to be self-employed. This is followed by the ability to give back to the community (38%) and freedom to choose what to work on (36%).

Those who have already started their business seem to have similar reasoning. When asked about the reasons MENA professionals have for starting their own business, the top three reasons were: ‘wanted to do what I love’ (29%), ‘having a great business idea’ (28%) and ‘to achieve a better work-life balance’ (24%).

Of those who prefer to seek employment in a company in the UAE, the main reasons for their preference are: learning new skills (47%) and stability of employment/ job security (47%).

“Wealth creation is not the only driver for MENA entrepreneurs, who increasingly tend to be aspirational in other ways. Our survey aims to understand the views of entrepreneurs as a way to maximize impact and drive growth and innovation in the economy,” said Ola Haddad, Director of Human Resources at “As part of our research strategy, will continue to research topics that provide professionals in the entrepreneurial ecosystem with credible data to make informed decisions.”

UAE Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Entrepreneurship continues to be a growing trend in the UAE. Despite the given challenges of setting up a business, the survey indicates that entrepreneurship has become more popular than ever before. When it comes to those who are currently employed, 70% are currently thinking of starting their own business, 19% of respondents have tried to start their own business in the past, while only 3% never thought of starting their own business.

Many entrepreneurs are looking to grow their startups and establish business. Over a third (37%) of MENA respondents have personal ambitions to grow their business further in their country of residence, followed by 27% who aim to become a major international group. 

Out of those who are self-employed in the MENA region, 38% are at the startup stage of the business, while another 28% say that their business is established but not performing well. On the other hand, 15% say their business is well established and performing well.

The top concern of UAE respondents while setting up their own business, would be procuring finances to start (70%) and the need to establish the right contacts (46%).

The most appealing industries for entrepreneurship are considered to be IT/ Internet/ E-commerce (12%), Commerce/ Trade/ Retail and Consumer Goods/ FMCG (both at 9%), followed by Real Estate/ Construction/ Property Development (8%).

Mentoring and Support

The survey shows even greater benefits of entrepreneurship for societies and the economy. The perceived image of entrepreneurs in the region is very positive – UAE respondents perceive entrepreneurs to be opportunity-driven (88%) and they help in creating new jobs (90%). 

The best pieces of advice offered to budding entrepreneurs by respondents in the MENA region is to not be afraid of failure (45%). In addition, 3 in 10 respondents believe that innovation is the key to success as an entrepreneur, followed by employing the right people (25%) and access to funding (18%). 

Zafar Shah, Research Director at YouGov said: “The positive attitudes about entrepreneurship that we see in the MENA region are an encouraging sign. It indicates that there is both a supply of potential entrepreneurs and those who may support their efforts. The ideas and innovations born in small companies and startups create a stronger economy, offering greater opportunities for upward mobility.”

Data for the Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa Survey was collected online from January 13 to February 3, 2021. Results are based on a sample of 1,763 respondents from the following countries: UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Sudan among others.

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