There is no social security law in the UAE, but many welfare benefits are available to citizens, among them free hospital treatment and medical care and subsidies for education. Relief for any domestic catastrophe is provided from a disaster fund. If the father of a family is unable to work because of illness, disability, or old age, he receives help under the National Assistance Law; should he die or divorce his wife, the woman's future is secured. UAE nationals receive many government services, including health care, water, and electricity, free of charge.
Female employment is growing in government service and in occupations such as education and health. According to government statistics, women accounted for nearly 20% of the workforce. Women account for 65% of intermediate and secondary school teachers, 54% of health care workers, and nearly 40% of all government employees. They are also accepted for military service. Women account for over 75% of the student body at the UAE University.
Women continue to suffer from official discrimination. Females may not leave the country without the permission of a male relative. Custody is given to mothers following divorce only in cases of children under seven. A married woman can work outside the home only with her husband's permission. Men may have more than one wife, but not more than four, and the practice is widespread. Women who remarry may have to give up custody of children from a previous marriage.
Many domestic servants are foreigners who are sometimes subjected to mistreatment or abuse, and poor pay. If they leave their employers without fulfilling the terms of their contract, they may be barred from taken further employment.
The government restricts democratic freedoms and also limits freedoms of speech, assembly, association, press, and the right to a speedy trial.