Tuesday Jay Leveton presented the results of the 2014 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller survey at the American Security Project. It focuses on Arab youth perspectives, concerns and aspirations throughout the region. The survey consisted of 3,500 face-to-face interviews conducted over the past year across sixteen countries in the Middle East. The sample was split equally between males and females ranging from 18 to 24 years old. Leveton highlighted the top ten findings:
- Arab youth are embracing modern values. 46% of Arab youth believe that traditional values are outdated and belong in the past. This number has risen from only 17% in 2011, demonstrating a shift away from traditional values. This change is also reflected in the decreasing influence of parents, family, and religion on Arab youth.
- They remain confident in their national government’s abilities. Arab youth show approximately 60% confidence in the government’s ability to address living standards, economic stability, war, unemployment and terrorism. There is great surprise in this confidence, specifically in countries that have suffered from economic hardship or political instability following the Arab Spring. Approval of the impact of the Arab Spring has declined from 72% in 2012 to 54% in 2014, most likely due to the continuous civil unrest and political instability in countries such as Egypt and Syria.
- They are increasingly concerned about the rising cost of living and unemployment. 63% of Arab youth are concerned about growing living expenses, while 42% expressed significant worry over unemployment. Approximately half are apprehensive about their own national economy. However, 55% of youth in countries outside of the GCC are concerned about unemployment, while only 39% within the GCC. This is due to the GCC’s proven ability to assist in job creation, while countries in North Africa and the Levant struggle with their youth unemployment rates.
- Arab youth believe that the biggest obstacle in the Middle East is civil unrest. 55% believe that the recent uprisings and instability are the greatest impediments to the advancement of the region. 38% believe that the lack of democracy is the greatest issue, while some believe it is the threat of terrorism.
- They are increasingly looking towards entrepreneurship as a source of opportunity. 67% feel that the younger generation is more likely to start a business than in previous generations. This entrepreneurial spirit hints at the perceived opportunities in starting one’s own business, specifically in response to some governments’ inability to provide jobs for their youth.
- The country that the younger Arab generation would most like to live in is the United Arab Emirates. 39% said that the UAE is the ideal country they would move to, while 21% said the United States, and 14% said Saudi Arabia. The UAE is the model country for Arab youth in terms of the right balance of governmental responsibility, national economy, foreign relations, etc. The United States has remained high in favor in Arab youth perspectives.
- Arab youth see their country’s biggest allies to be Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 36% believe that Saudi Arabia is their country’s biggest ally and 33% said the UAE. This was followed by Qatar, Kuwait, and lastly the United States, which marks a shift away from Western countries as the largest allies.
- They have a new concern for obesity and rising health issues. Over the past year, there has been a sharp increase in the percentage of youth concerned about obesity from 12% in 2013 to 26% in 2014. An increasing number of the younger generation is worried about diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Among all countries, 52% of youth feel as though the healthcare in their country has remained the same over the past year, while 34% believe that it has improved.
- They believe that the government should subsidize energy costs and aren’t too concerned about climate change. 74% believe that energy, electricity, and transport fuel should be subsidized by the government. This comes from the rising concern about the cost of living in each respective country. While this is the greatest worry among youth, concern for climate change and the environment is a very low priority at only 6%.
- There has been a great increase in daily news consumption, specifically through online media and social networking sites. Television has been the most popular source of news for the sixth year in a row with 75% of Arab youth using it as their most frequent news source. However, a declining number of youth see the television as the most trusted source of news– 39% now view social media as the most reliable source, rising from 22% in 2013.
While the 2014 survey ranges across sixteen countries that vary in political, economic, and social characteristics, there is nonetheless a great sense of continuity in the hopes, concerns, and priorities of Arab youth in the region.