The 11th annual Arab Youth Survey calls for reform based on the concerns of young people across the Arab world.
Rabat – ASDA’A Burson Cohn and Wolfe (ASDA’A BCW), a public relations firm based in the Middle East, published their 2019 Arab Youth Survey, titled “A Call for Reform.” The year’s survey is the 11th edition of the report which provides insight into the attitudes of Arab youth in the hopes of aiding both the public and private sector in decision and policy-making.
The survey included young people between the ages of 18 to 24 in 15 Arab states and territories. Those territories include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen.
Arab youths are the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s largest demographic with 65% of the Arab population younger than 30. ASDA’A BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) considers an understanding of the age group especially important as they are the “custodians of the future.”
The report’s findings cover a wide variety of topics from economic concerns and unemployment to mental health and drug use. The researchers conducted 3,300 face-to-face interviews in Arabic and English in order to understand the attitudes and opinions of Arab youth.
One of the study’s findings was that young people in the Arab world feel that religion plays too great of a role in the political and social aspects of life and is due for reform. Commenting on the study is Dr. Mohammed Shahrour, a well-known scholar of modern Islam and a professor at the University of Damascus. Dr. Shahrour said that “young Arabs remain attached and devoted to their faith despite being unconvinced of some inherited thoughts and religious structures.”
In addition to conflicts with the role of religion, 75% of Arab youths are unhappy with education in their home country. The majority, given the choice, would pursue higher education in the West rather than anywhere in the MENA region.
When asked which country in the world they would most like to live in, the top five responses from youth were the UAE, Canada, the U.S., Turkey, and the UK. The preference for the UAE was at 44%. These statistics reveal the extent to which the UAE has benefitted from embracing global values to become seen as a model for the rest of the region.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are where 80% of respondents said they primarily got their news. Social media is increasingly popular among youth and seen as more trustworthy than traditional media.
Concerns about the future
Additionally, young Arabs expressed a desire to see an end to regional conflicts and a desire for increased access to medical care especially that which can address issues of mental health. Concerningly, many felt that it was easy to access drugs in their countries and believe that drug use is on the rise across the region.
The issue that weighs most heavily on the minds of young Arabs is the economy. Young people see the biggest issues in the Middle East to be the rising cost of living and unemployment. Because of these economic issues, many young people both seek and feel entitled to government support. Jihad Azour, the Director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, expressed sympathy for the complaints of the youth and agrees that governments across the region must take action.
Morocco, where youth employment is 17.9% of the total labor force, has been experiencing feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction from the youth who feel frustrated by the lack of economic opportunities they perceive.
Director Jihad Azour said: “What is needed is a new social contract between MENA governments and citizens that ensures accountability, transparency and a commitment to the principle that no one is left behind.”