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Arab Youth Survey: Majority of youngsters feel their ‘best days lie ahead'

Waheed Abbas /Dubai
waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 12, 2021

Despite pandemic and economic challenges, youth in the UAE are highly optimistic

The optimism among the Arab youths has grown this year as compared to the previous year — 60 per cent believe that their best days lies ahead. It is the highest level in the past five years, despite the pandemic and economic challenges for the majority of the Arab youth.

According to the 13th edition of the annual Asda’a BCW Arab Youth Survey released on Tuesday, GCC youth remain overwhelmingly optimistic as there has been a spike in optimism among youth in the Levant and North Africa.

Youth in the UAE are highly optimistic – second highest in the Mena region at 90 per cent after Kuwait (92 per cent). Overall, 84 per cent of youth in GCC, 63 per cent in North Africa and 36 per cent are optimistic that goods days are ahead.

The high optimism among the UAE and GCC youth is mainly driven by the trust in the government’s policies to successfully handle the Covid-19 pandemic as economic policies.

Nearly a half – 48 per cent – of young Arabs say they will lead a better life than their parents – the highest level in three years while 24 per cent expect it to be the same.

The annual survey was conducted among 3,400 nationals of Mena countries across 50 cities and 17 Arab countries aged between 18 and 24 years. Conducted between June 6 and June 30, 2021, the survey was split 50:50 between males and females.

World Bank estimated in the latest report that the output cost of Covid-19 so far in Mena is almost $200 billion.

Sunil John, president for Mena at BCW and founder of Asda’a BCW, said this year’s research has illustrated many of the pandemic’s extremely damaging effects, as well as the work required to meet the future hopes of Arab youth.

“However, at the same, it has shone new light on the deep reserves of optimism and pragmatism among our young people. Such positivity is hugely encouraging and a strong platform on which policymakers can build a better and prosperous future,” John said.

High cost of living is a concern

The rising cost of living is one of the biggest concerns for the Arab youth, with around 89 per cent of them expressing concern.

More than 8 in 10 were also concerned about unemployment and the quality of higher education, while over a third (37 per cent) said they were struggling to meet their expenses. Another one-third (33 per cent) said either they or a family member had lost their job due to Covid-19.

The young Arabs identified that tackling corruption and nepotism, providing more information on the job opportunities available and education reforms can help boost job creation in the region. They also seek government support for affordable financing and reduction in red-tapism to start their own business.

Fewer youth now consider emigration

Lack of economic opportunity continues to be the main driver of emigration, with a third of young Arabs (33 per cent) saying they were either considering or had tried to leave their home country.

However, this is a substantial drop from the 42 per cent of Arab youth who said they wanted to migrate in 2020.

The US has the most influence in the Arab world

In other interesting findings, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are widely considered to be the region’s strongest allies, with more than eight out of 10 young Arabs describing them as a strong ally or somewhat of an ally of their country.

China and Russia are the region’s fourth and fifth strongest allies, according to Arab youth, while the UK and the US rank eighth and ninth, respectively.

Arab youth continue to feel the presence of the US in regional affairs, with over half (51 per cent) saying that the country has the most influence over the Arab world, followed by Saudi Arabia (29 per cent) and the UAE (23 per cent).

Waheed Abbas





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