x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Soaring cost of living and unemployment concerns Arab youth, survey reveals

This is the fourth consecutive year that rising costs have been listed in the ten main findings of the Arab Youth Survey.

DUBAI // The concerns of Arab youth – rising costs and unemployment – are shared by young people across the world, experts say.

For the fourth consecutive year, growing anxiety about the soaring cost of living and jobs were listed as major concerns in the annual Arab Youth Survey.

“It shows how much the younger demographic has in common with the rest of the world,” said Don Baer, chairman of polling firm Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the survey.

“They all have great aspirations and trust in themselves but at the same time there is a great anxiety about employment and costs and how they will navigate this.”

The UAE held on to its position as the most popular country to live in and, for the second year, was named by youths as the nation they would most like their country to emulate.

The young also chose their GCC neighbours as their biggest ally over traditional western countries.

More than 36 per cent indicated Saudi Arabia as their country’s biggest supporter, followed closely by the UAE with 33 per cent and Qatar and Kuwait at 25 per cent each.

At least 200 people were interviewed from each of the 16 countries, with Palestine added to the list this year. The areas covered ranged from the political to the personal, including views on the economy, the impact of the Arab Spring, media consumption habits and attitudes towards traditional values.

A majority of the 3,500 young men and women, aged 18-24, listed civil unrest as the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East. Another key finding was a drop in the percentage of those who perceived a positive fallout from the Arab Spring.

Only 54 per cent this year said the Arab world was better off following the Arab Spring – a sharp decline from 70 per cent last year.

Similarly, 58 per cent this year believed they would be better off in five years due to the political changes – a drop from 74 per cent last year.

“Young people are starting to ask what does the Arab Spring bring to this part of the world – what is this bringing me,” said Sunil John, chief executive of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the communications company which released the survey.

“This is the region’s biggest independent study and is based on the aspirations of an important demographic, the 200 million-strong youth population in the Arab region. It is important to share the findings with Arab governments and businesses so they make informed decisions.”

Since the launch of the survey in 2008 covering 10 countries, interest has grown among governments, he said.

The survey also showed that a growing number were turning to the internet for news. “Almost half of the young Arab population update themselves daily on news about the region,” Mr John said.

“While television retains its top position, sourcing from online networks, either newspaper versions on the internet or from social media, is growing. The youth of today are fast becoming the 24/7 social network generation. It is evident in this year’s findings that more youth are turning to social networks as they gain increasing trust in the blogosphere,” he said.

As high as 47 per cent of those polled this year said they sought daily updates on current affairs – up from 18 per cent in 2011.

While 39 per cent this year said they trusted social media and the internet for news, shooting up from 9 per cent in 2012.

rtalwar@thenational.ae