Nearly half of young Arabs (45%) say they would consider leaving their home country for a better life, and 14% say that the UAE is their preferred destination.

The My Livelihood section of the Arab Youth Survey, which was published today, said nearly half would consider or had considered leaving their home country, with 49% citing difficulties in finding a job, a figure that went up to 73% in Lebanon.

Other preferred destinations for emigration among the youths surveyed across the MENA region were Canada, 22%, Germany 19% and the USA, 17%.

The survey also showed that nearly one third (32%) cited unemployment as the region’s biggest problem; another 29% said it was the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Jobs and living expenses have been the two top concerns every year since the study began, except in 2016 and 2017, when young people cited the rise of Daesh and the threat of terrorism as the region’s biggest challenges, the survey said.

The proportion of those struggling to meet basic expenses was high, at 41% overall and 63% in the Levant, but it was lower in the GCC, where 16% said they struggle to pay their expenses in full.

One fifth, or 20%, said their financial situation was their biggest source of mental strain, bigger than family issues and personal relationship, rising to 30% in the Levant countries and Yemen. 

Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, which carried out the Arab Youth Survey, said living cost and unemployment concerns by the young showed that there is work to do.

“For several years, industry experts have been calling for the creation of millions of jobs in the private sector to solve the unemployment problem,” he said.

“Our survey results suggest young Arabs are no longer prepared to wait for this, and in parallel, losing interest in a government job. They now realise that being self-reliant as entrepreneurs is their only option.”

The survey covers Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, North Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)