Unemployment and extremism top concerns of Arab youth

The results highlighted a potential shift from regional to individual concerns.

Split views. A man walks past a graffiti painted on a wall in the Lebanese capital Beirut. (AFP)


2017/05/07 Issue: 105 Page: 1


The Arab Weekly
Simon Speakman Cordall



Tunis- Widespread unem­ployment and ex­tremism are per­ceived to be the greatest obstacles to progress in the Middle East, a re­cently released report has shown.

In the survey, which looked at attitudes among 18- to 24-year-olds from 16 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, un­employment and extremism were perceived to be greater threats to progress than what had typically been considered pan-Arab issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict and a lack of regional cohesion. Respondents from Iraq, Algeria, Bahrain, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon all reported concerns over unemployment ahead of other issues.

The survey was conducted be­tween February 7 and March 7 by Dubai-based ASDA’A Burson- Marsteller and was the ninth such study in the series. Approximately 3,500 young people, split equally between the sexes, were inter­viewed face-to-face in 16 countries. The countries were then grouped into three areas — the Gulf Coop­eration Council (GCC), North Africa and the Levant and Yemen.

Among other surprises, the results highlighted a potential shift from regional to individual concerns, with queries charting respondents’ relationship with government indi­cating an overwhelming sense that the needs of youth were overlooked by policymakers.

Regional schisms were also pre­sent, with 80% of respondents from the GCC reporting feeling confident their educations had equipped them for the modern workplace, compared to one-third of respondents from North Africa, the Levant and Yemen who were satisfied their education prepared them for jobs of the future.

However, the most dramatic di­vide lay in young people’s attitudes towards the future, with only the six GCC countries reporting a clear majority of respondents who said they thought their best days were in front of them, ahead of North Af­rica, the Levant and Yemen.

Also recorded was the increased sense of hostility towards the Unit­ed States and, specifically, to Don­ald Trump’s administration with the new president scoring the low­est popularity rating of the three presidents elected since 2000, in­cluding George W. Bush.

Some of the other conclusions drawn by the survey takers in­cluded: The UAE being the country where most young Arabs would like to live or at least have their country emulate; the Islamic State has grown weaker over the last year; anti-American views have increased, with Russia now being seen as the region’s principal inter­national ally.

Despite taking pride in the Arabic language, most young adults who participated in the survey said they were increasingly using English in their daily lives. Most respondents said Facebook was their principal source of daily news.


Simon Speakman Cordall is a section editor with The Arab Weekly.


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