By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter, Gulf News, 25 Feb 2006
Dubai: Raising children in the UAE could be costing expatriates twice as much as it would back home or even more, say sociologists.
A recent survey carried out in the UK revealed that children will cost parents close to Dh300,000 from birth until they are 18, while in the UAE this figure could be as high as Dh540,000.
"The problem is that there are no statistics for this country. The cost depends on community and class but annually, with school fees it might cost parents Dh30,000 per year to raise kids in the UAE," said Dr Layachi Asser, sociology professor at UAE University.
According to the survey carried out by Maestro UK debit card and Family Circle magazine, children cost parents the most at 16, and more than 70 per cent of parents expect to contribute something towards their offsprings’ first cars.
Dr Mousa Shallal, associate professor of sociology at UAE University in Al Ain and a father of four, said school fees take up most of the expenditure.
"There are more private schools than public schools here. The bulk of the budget goes to education. Parents probably pay between Dh6,000 and Dh10,000 annually just for fees and an extra Dh3,000 for books and uniform," said Shallal.
"But it depends nationals have no school fees and some top professionals have school fees paid by businesses," he added.
The survey revealed that parents pay on average of around Dh1,000 a year on sending children to state-run school in the UK, while one in 50 will send them to private-run schools at a cost of more than Dh30,000 a year.
Shallal added that children’s expectations were higher than his generation’s at the same age. "Kids are exposed to the internet. They know about the best cars and games and can make parents feel like they are being deprived," he said.
Farah, 43, a housewife from Lebanon living in Dubai for 15 years, said her family was spoilt and blessed in Dubai yet it was expensive to raise children here. School fees for her two boys are Dh100,000 not including the cost of sports and music lessons.
"I don’t know what our annual average is. Unfortunately children are spoiled here, including mine. Music lessons, entertainment, gifts and birthday parties are expensive. Birthdays are held in hotels and gifts cost between Dh150 and Dh200," she said.
She said she budgets her expenses but despite this it is difficult to save.
High cost of living and stagnant salaries
A UAE national, 27, who works as a civil engineer and has a 3-month-old boy, said growing up in a middle class family, his parents did not have lots of money to spend on him and his ten brothers and sisters.
"We went to a government school which is free for nationals. I remember before each term my father would take us to buy books and it would cost him up to Dh3,000 for all of us. He would give us Dh5 for lunch every day," he said.
In the 1970s when his older siblings attended school, students had free meals at lunchtime and for each child the family received Dh300 from the school. "It isn’t that much of a financial challenge to raise kids before they are 18," he said.
However, he added that since the birth of his son, he has had a few surprises and was shocked to learn that in the UK, a 16-year-old will cost parents Dh500 a week. "A simple T-shirt costs around Dh60. It is so expensive! The government gives me Dh300 each month but it is not enough," he said.
Rafiq Nasar, 52, a general manager of a media company from Pakistan, said his family lives within their means, but the cost of living is high and salaries remain the same.