The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well all across the Middle East, but particularly so in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a survey reveals.

The survey, by recruitment site, found that just under half of all respondents polled in the UAE preferred to be their own boss rather than an employee.

This was one percentage point ahead of respondents similarly polled in Kuwait (46 percent), three points ahead of respondents in Lebanon (44 percent), four points ahead of those in Jordan (43 percent), and a whopping nine percentage points ahead of Egyptian respondents (38 percent).

Of course, part of the entrepreneurial drive so evident in the UAE originates from within the country’s vibrant higher education sector, with some institutions combining Arab culture with a very strong American university experience. The extremely popular American University of Sharjah is a good example of this.

The survey, which was conducted in collaboration with research and consulting organization YouGov, revealed how sentiments in the UAE are relatively torn over whether it is preferable to work for a company or be self-employed.

Those in favour of self-employment said, if given the choice, they would explore the possibilities of entrepreneurship – as opposed to the 48 percent who would choose to be employees. From that 48 percent, more than half (54 percent) would prefer to work in the private sector.

The top reasons UAE respondents want to work for a company, rather than be self-employed, are the chance to learn new skills and techniques (45 percent), the regular income offered by a salaried job (43 percent), and the benefits working for a company offers, such as medical insurance (34 percent).

For those in the UAE who would prefer to pursue an entrepreneurial career path, the number one reason is personal fulfillment (60 percent), followed by the freedom to choose their own work-life balance (53 percent) and the chance to be their own boss (42 percent).

More than half (53 percent) of the respondents who are currently employed in the public or private sector in the UAE are currently thinking of starting their own business, while 20 percent have tried to start one in the past but failed to do so.

A third of UAE respondents (33 percent) claim that it is ‘somewhat difficult’ to set up a new business in the UAE, with the unavailability of finance being the leading hindrance (64 percent) in doing so. Strict government rules and regulations (37 percent) are also seen as difficult to overcome.

In the UAE, the hospitality and leisure industry is seen to be the most appealing for entrepreneurship by 19 percent, followed by finance, insurance and real estate (14 percent), and, jointly with 13 percent each, advertising, marketing and public relations, and architecture and engineering.

When asked what they perceive to be the top three things that would concern them if they were to set up their own business, the majority of UAE respondents chose ‘procuring finances to start’ (62 percent), ‘uncertainty of profit and income’ (44 percent), and ‘needing to establish the right contacts’ (36 percent).

UAE respondents agree that their education has helped them develop an entrepreneurial attitude (71 percent), acquire the necessary skills and know-how to become an entrepreneur and understand the role entrepreneurs play in society (68 percent), as well as made them interested in becoming an entrepreneur (64 percent).

Suhail Masri, VP of Sales at, said, β€œIt would seem there are issues standing in the way of people becoming self-employed. With finance being the number one problem across the Middle East, it suggests that the region needs more angel investors to step in and help local entrepreneurs; it might also be of benefit for authorities to reconsider their policies, as less stringent regulations could encourage the creation of more start-ups.”