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Arab Youth Survey: Fair pay and home

Ali Zafar / 3 May 2012

Owning a home and earning a fair wage is a greater priority for Arab youth than living in a democracy, according to a new survey.

Sunil John; Joseph Ghossoub, chairman and CEO of Menacom Group; Nader Kabbani, director of research and polcy; and Jeremy Galbraith during the launch of the fourth annual edition of ‘ Arab Youth Survey’ at The Address, Downtown Dubai, on Wednesday. —KT Photo by Mohammad Mustafa Khan

Commissioned by the public relations agency ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the survey was conducted across 12 Arab countries, including the UAE, where 250 youth between the ages 18 and 24 were interviewed face-to-face.

The survey was conducted on the heels of the Arab Spring, a wave of demonstrations across the Arab world fueled primarily by youth looking for better living conditions.

“I don’t think if you’re living in Tripoli or Cairo, the first thing you think about is living in a democracy,” said Jeremy Galbraith, CEO, Europe, Middle-East and Africa, Burson-Marsteller. Galbraith said what’s more important to these youth is having a roof over their heads and a salary that offers them an opportunity to live a comfortable life.

He uses the UAE and Qatar as examples of countries where the distribution of wealth was evenly handed out among citizens, partly why the Arab Spring didn’t catch on here as it did in other Arab countries. Sunil John, the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, said youth in the Arab world have other issues to deal with before they can think about living in a democracy.

“You can’t say they don’t want democracy, it’s that right now they’re saying ‘we’ve put pressure on the government and we want jobs and homes.’”

He cites statistics from this year that show 58 per cent of Arab youth want to live in a democracy, compared to 68 per cent in 2011.

“It’s the here and now that’s really important for these youth, they want to get on with their lives,” John said, noting that that youth are looking forward to seeing the fruits of the Arab Spring.

Currently, there are 200 million people under the age of 30 living across the Arab World, the largest demography of youth anywhere on the globe, John said.

Another intriguing finding in the study is that the UAE is seen as a model nation by youth across the Middle East.

Of the 2,500 youth interviewed, 40 per cent said they would like their country to emulate the UAE.

“This place has given people opportunities. You can make a living, you can create a future for yourself, you can bring your family over here and live a normal life,” John said. “The quality of life is fantastic, comparable to the best in the world,” he added.

Maha ElSalhy, 21, is one of those youth who sees what the UAE offers its residents. Born and raised here, ElSalhy’s heritage goes back to Egypt, a country that became the epicentre for the Arab Spring.

“I have a friend on Facebook in Egypt who says I take those air-conditioned bus stops in Dubai for granted,” ElSalhy said.

“It’s the fancy things that get people here,” she said.

As for democracy, ElSalhy says it’s still an important concept for Arab youth, even by any other name.

“I don’t care if it’s called a democracy, as long as you have the right to live freely, the right to practices whatever religion you want and as long as you have a good life.” - alizafar@khaleejtimes.com

TOP 10 

  1. Fair pay and home ownership displace desire for democracy as top priority
  2. High cost of living remains the greatest concern
  3. Lack of democracy and civil unrest are the biggest obstacles facing them & the region
  4. Regional youth see the Arab Spring as a positive development and now feel greater optimism about the future
  5. They feel an increased sense of trust in government but have heightened concerns about corruption
  6. The Arab Spring will not spread further, according to the region’s youth
  7. Traditional values are being increasingly challenged by a modern outlook
  8. The UAE is seen as a model nation by Middle East youth
  9. France seen as most favourably among all foreign countries; views of China and India are also increasingly positive
  10. News consumption skyrockets, TV viewership declines
& blogs are booming




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