Abu Dhabi: The average monthly income of UAE national households in Abu Dhabi was Dh47,066 in 2008 compared with Dh15,000 for expat households, a study released by the emirate's Department of Economic Development (DED) shows.

Abu Dhabi is home to more than 50 per cent of the country's 880,000 citizens. In 2008, they represented 18.5 per cent of the population, according to the Ministry of Economy's figures.

One reason behind the disparity between local and foreign incomes is the relatively large size of Emirati households, says DED Chief Economic Researcher Khalid Desouky. The average size of an Emirati household was 10 people in 2008, including the main members of the family and workers such as drivers and maids.

Consistent with higher incomes, UAE national households also recorded higher average spending at Dh25,458 per month compared with Dh8,900 for foreigners.

According to the study, 83 per cent of nationals rely completely on salaries and bonuses for their incomes with eight per cent dependent on property rentals and nine per cent on other sources such as capital gains.

Gulf Research Center (GRC) researcher Saif Al Haddashi says average spending for nationals will likely remain at the same level and even see an increase in the short-term, but drop long-term because of the government's economic diversification plans.

"Spending by locals will not go down by much because of the government's intervention to cushion the impact of the economic crisis," he says.

"In the long-term, though, you can see the UAE moving in the same direction as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman, where you have locals working in semi-skilled positions."

According to the study, Abu Dhabi Government employees represent 48 per cent of all employed nationals in the emirate. An additional 31 per cent of locals are employed by the Federal Government. Al Haddashi says this number will likely decline as the government moves toward economic diversification and is less able to maintain salary levels.

Still, he says care should be exercised when analysing the numbers presented by the study as they only represent averages. A high disparity exists even between incomes of nationals, he adds.

Besides income and spending data, the study shows 73 per cent of nationals living in Abu Dhabi are under the age of 30.

With the exception of Oman with 65 per cent, the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries have a ratio of less than 60 per cent for this age group, according to United Nations figures.