- Following the launch of the survey’s first theme, ‘My Global Citizenship,’ ASDA’A BCW unveils findings under two new themes, ‘My Politics’ and ‘My Livelihood’
- Findings highlight stark divide in the perceptions of youth in the GCC states compared with their counterparts in North Africa and Levant
- Two-thirds of Arab youth in North Africa and Levant say their voice does not matter to their country’s leadership, a significant drop from 2022
- Rising cost of living and unemployment continue to be the biggest concerns for Arab youth
Dubai, UAE, July 18, 2023: Nearly two-thirds of Arab youth outside the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries lack confidence in their government’s ability to tackle their most pressing concerns such as unemployment, corruption, and rising living costs.
More than half (54%) of the total respondents also felt their voice did not matter to their country’s leadership. This is a significant drop of 19 percentage points over 2022 in the number of young Arabs who said their voice matters to their leadership. This feeling of estrangement, primarily driven by young people in North Africa and Levant, is also the most pronounced in five years.
These are some of the key findings of the landmark 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, the most comprehensive study of its kind of the Arab world’s largest demographic, its over 200 million youth, by ASDA’A BCW, the Middle East and North Africa’s leading communications consultancy.
ASDA’A BCW commissioned SixthFactor Consulting, a leading research company, to conduct face-to-face interviews with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 in their home nations from March 27 to April 12, 2023. The largest sample in the survey’s history was equally divided between men and women in 53 cities across a total of 18 Arab states, including for the first time South Sudan. The interviews were conducted in person rather than online to maximise accuracy and to reflect the nuances of Arab youth opinion across the region as much as possible.
This year, the survey’s findings are being released under six themes, with the first, ‘My Global Citizenship’ announced in June. Today, ASDA’A BCW published key insights under the second and third themes: ‘My Politics’ and ‘My Livelihood’, which highlighted a stark contrast in the outlook of young men and women in the Arabian Gulf and those in North Africa and Levant.
GCC governments showing the way on policy
More than three-quarters (78%) of Arab youth in the GCC states say they agree that their voice matters to their leadership while a full 87% say their government has the right policies to address their most important concerns.
Arab youth across the sample identified unemployment, government corruption, rising living costs, economic instability and climate change among the top concerns facing them and the region. GCC youth expressed strong confidence in their government to address all these issues.
Nearly all (98%) young Emiratis said they were confident of their government’s ability to address unemployment. Youth had a similarly positive outlook in Saudi Arabia (70%), Oman (67%), Kuwait (64%) and Bahrain (61%). Unsurprisingly, only 20% of GCC youth said it would be difficult to find a job in their country.
Young men and women in the GCC also expressed confidence in their government to address corruption. This was the view of 97% of youth in the UAE, 84% in Oman, 82% in Bahrain, 69% in Saudi Arabia and 56% in Kuwait.
Similarly, 98% of Emirati youth said they were confident that their government could manage the rising cost of living, compared with 66% of young Arabs in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, 64% in Oman, and 57% in Kuwait. Only 15% of GCC youth said they struggled to pay their expenses in full, though 16% said they were in debt, with student loans (25%), car loans (15%), marriage loans (11%) and excessive shopping (9%) cited as the main reasons.
All Emirati youth polled said they were confident that their government could ensure economic stability; high levels of confidence on economic management were also found in Saudi Arabia (82%), Oman and Kuwait (73% each) and Bahrain (67%). More than half (52%) of GCC youth also said there was no government corruption in their country, although 44% said there was ‘some’ corruption.
Youth in the GCC also trust their government to take action on climate change, with 97% of Emirati youth, 75% of young Saudis, 80% in Oman, 77% in Bahrain and 66% in Kuwait expressing confidence in the climate policies of their leaders. This positivity reflects widespread optimism about the future, with 83% of GCC youth saying their country was going in the right direction.
Government in North Africa and Levant unresponsive to Arab youth
A contrasting picture emerges from North Africa and the Levant countries. Only a third of youth surveyed in these regions said their voice mattered to their leadership, while 63% in North Africa and 66% in Levant said their governments did not have the right policies to address their most important concerns.
Nearly two-thirds (61%) of youth in North Africa and about three-quarters (71%) of Levantine youth said their country was going in the wrong direction. Just four in ten (38%) young Arabs in North Africa were confident that their government could address unemployment, while in Levant, which has among the world’s highest levels of youth unemployment, only a third (32%) said their government was able to address the issue. More than half of youth in Levant (57%) and North Africa (50%) said it was difficult to find a job in their country.
While a significant 41% of youth in North Africa said they were confident their government could deliver economic stability, less than a third (31%) of youth in the Levant said the same.
They were similarly downbeat on the ability of their government to tackle inflation, with 41% of North African youth and a third (33%) in Levant saying they didn’t trust their leaders to manage rising living costs. And nearly half of the study sample in both regions said they struggled to pay their expenses in full, with a quarter (27%) of youth in Levant and 19% in North Africa admitting they were in debt – student loans, medical bills, credit card bills and car loans were mostly responsible.
On climate change, 46% of youth in North Africa and 39% of their peers in the Levant said they were confident their government could address the issue. When it comes to eradicating corruption, 40% of North African youth and 28% of young people in Levant said they had faith in their government.
Graft is widely acknowledged by Arab youth to be a concern in the region, with a third (33%) of the total respondents to the survey saying there was ‘widespread government corruption’ in their country. This sentiment is particularly strong in North Africa (87%) and Levant (89%).
Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “What stands out in this year’s survey is the fact that, once again, young GCC citizens are poles apart from their fellow Arabs in North Africa and the Levant.”
“Over the past 15 years, our research has been a barometer of the hopes and fears of Arab youth in countries outside the Arabian Gulf, particularly on kitchen table issues such as jobs and rising living costs. A path to a better future for these young men and women must be found if we are to ensure the Arab world’s precious youth dividend is not lost.
“It is no small matter that the GCC nations are economically stronger, oil-producing nations, while the countries in North Africa and Levant – in particular, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Sudan and Yemen – are conflict-ridden and only recovering from long years of a ravaging war.”
John said that the spirit of youth optimism emerging from the GCC states showed that realising such a future was possible. “The fact that three-quarters of GCC youth believe their voice matters to their leadership, compared to barely a third in North Africa and Levant is telling. It shows that GCC governments understand the pulse of their youth.”
In the coming weeks, ASDA’A BCW will publish insights under the three remaining themes covered in the study: My Identity, covering religion and issues of personal identity; My Aspirations, the hopes of young Arabs for the future; and My Lifestyle, highlighting their habits, pastimes, and the media they consume. Findings on climate change, mental health and gender rights will also be disclosed, making this year’s study the most extensive in the survey’s history. The overall theme of the 15th edition of the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey is ‘Living a New Reality’.
View all findings here