Soaring prices and finding a job dominate concerns of Arab youth, survey reveals (Ramola Talwar Badam)
Ramola Talwar Badam
DUBAI // Arab youth are more anxious about jobs and inflation than about the threat of terrorism, a survey shows.
Soaring prices have been a key concern for more than 60 per cent of respondents for the past three years, according to the Arab Youth Survey.
Worries about rising costs are evenly spread across the Arab world among youth, with 63 per cent in the GCC saying they were “very concerned”, compared with 62 per cent in the other Arab countries.
“Their focus is on the here and now. They are not looking at promises for the future,” said Don Baer, the chairman of polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), which conducted the survey.
“The younger demographic is focused on the fragility of the world economy and their concerns raise questions for governments and businesses.”
Sixty-seven per cent of respondents in Bahrain and Morocco voiced concern about living costs, compared with 61 per cent of their peers in the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Yemen and Palestine.
In the UAE, 22 per cent of respondents were somewhat concerned about inflation, 12 per cent were not very concerned, while 5 per cent said they were not concerned at all.
There was more concern about unemployment in the non-GCC countries than in the GCC; 39 per cent of youth in the Arabian Gulf expressed concerns about jobs, compared with 55 per cent of their peers in the rest of the Arab world.
“The future of the region is defined by its young demographic,” said Sunil John, the chief executive of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the public relations firm that released the survey.
“The young are focused on jobs and lower prices. They are worried about living standards, finding a job, being able to start a family. Governments are seriously challenged on creating jobs for people. With 80 to 100 million jobs to be created … there is no part of the globe that has needed so many jobs.”
Mr John said that was why governments were spending even more money to create funds for young people to start their own businesses, as they were unable to provide more jobs.
The Middle East and North Africa need to create 80 to 100 million jobs by 2020, according to World Bank figures.
Unemployment across age groups was 11.3 per cent last year in the Middle East; 28 per cent of youth and 19 per cent of women were unemployed, according to the International Labour Organisation.
Still, youth in the Arabian Gulf states were less anxious about finding jobs compared with their peers in other Arab countries.
Egyptian youth were the most concerned about unemployment at 62 per cent, followed by Algeria at 59 per cent, and Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and Lebanon ranging between 56 and 54 per cent.
In the UAE, 36 per cent of respondents said they were very concerned about unemployment, similar to Oman’s 34 per cent.
Experts said this reflected the broader findings that showed the UAE retained its top position for the second consecutive year as the country most young Arabs would like to live in and the nation they would like their country to emulate.
“The UAE stood out when we asked if the government is going in the right direction,” said Mr John. “The sense of optimism among young nationals here about the future comes out shining in the study compared to all the youth in all the 16 countries.”
The interviews were conducted between December and January. An equal number of male and female Arabs between 18 and 24 years of age in the Middle East and North Africa took part in the survey.