Nearly two-thirds in North Africa and about three-quarters in Levant say their national economy is going in the wrong direction
Over half of Arab youth in the Levant and North Africa say they are actively trying to leave or are considering leaving their country for better opportunities, according to a new survey.
The desire to emigrate is strongest among young people in the Levant, with 53% saying they are actively trying to leave or considering it. In North Africa, 48% of young people say they are considering emigration.
The top destination for Arab youth who want to emigrate is Canada, with 34% saying they would like to move there.
The United States is the second most popular destination, with 30% of young Arabs saying they would like to move there. Germany and the United Kingdom are also popular destinations, with 20% of young Arabs saying they would like to move to either country.
The survey, which was conducted by ASDA’A BCW, a Middle East and North Africa communications consultancy, also found that young Arabs are generally optimistic about their future. More than two-thirds (69%) of Arab youth believe their best days lie ahead of them, a 5% increase over 2022.
However, the survey also found that young Arabs are concerned about the economic outlook in their countries. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of young Arabs in the Levant and 62% of young Arabs in North Africa said their national economy is going in the wrong direction.
In contrast, young people in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are more optimistic about the economic outlook in their countries. Nearly nine in 10 (88%) young people in the GCC said their country’s economy is headed in the right direction.
The survey also found that young Arabs are motivated to emigrate for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is to find a job (49%). Other reasons include to experience something new (25%), to be closer to family and friends (20%), and escaping political instability (15%).
The survey was conducted among 3,000 young people in the Levant, North Africa, and the GCC. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
Over half of Arab youth in the Levantine and North African countries say they are actively trying to leave or are considering leaving their country for better opportunities. The desire to emigrate is strongest among young men and women in the Levant (53%) followed by North Africa (48%), with the primary goal of finding a job.
On the other hand, just over a quarter (27%) of youth in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states say they have considered emigration, with a majority saying they would ‘never leave their country.’
Most Arab youths say they would like to emigrate to Canada (34%), with the United States (30%) coming a close second, followed by Germany and the UK (both 20%) and France at 17%.
These are some of the key findings under the theme ‘My Aspirations’ in the 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, conducted by ASDA’A BCW, the Middle East and North Africa’s leading communications consultancy.
The desire to emigrate corresponds with the bleak economic outlook in many Arab nations. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of young Arabs in the Levant (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen), and about two-thirds (62%) in North African countries surveyed (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan and Tunisia) said their national economy is going in the ‘wrong direction’.
In the GCC, however, youth remain extremely optimistic, with nearly nine in 10 (88%) saying their country’s economy is headed in the ‘right direction’.
With youth unemployment in the Middle East exceeding 25% – the highest and fastest-growing in the world, according to the International Labour Organisation – getting a job is understandably a priority for young Arabs. Among those who said they are actively considering emigration, nearly half (49%) said the reason was to ‘look for a job.’
One in four (25%) GCC youth said they have considered emigration to ‘experience something new’ compared with 13% in North Africa and 11% in the Levant.
Despite their fears about their national economy, more than two-thirds (69%) of Arab youth believe their best days lie ahead of them, a 5% increase over 2022. Youth in the GCC are the most hopeful (85%), followed by those in North Africa (64%) and the Levant (60%).
Compared with four years ago, youth optimism in the region is at its peak, with 57% today saying they will have a better life than their parents, compared with 45% who said this in 2019. The positivity is highest among GCC youth (75%), followed by young Arabs in the Levant (52%) and North Africa (50%).
Thinking about the next 10 years, Arab youth mostly want to start a career (18%) followed by finishing their education (17%). Pursuing a personal interest they are passionate about ranked third (15%).
In another insightful finding, more than 8 in 10 (85%) said Arab countries must uphold universal values such as freedom, equality and respect for human rights – a sentiment shared by most young Arabs in all the three regions covered – 91% in North Africa, and 81% each in the GCC and Levant.
Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “The increasing number of Arab youth seeking greener pastures abroad reveals two of their important characteristics: One, their disappointment in the lack of opportunities at home – for a good education and a successful career, and two, their eagerness to shape their own destiny.
“Youth emigration is a huge drain on the economy of the Arab world, which must be stopped if the region is to benefit from the youth dividend. The region is one of the youngest in the world with over 60% of its population, over 200 million, below the age of 30,” added John.
“Despite the bleak economies in North Africa and the Levant, what shines through is the youthful exuberance of being optimistic about the future. This is evident in most young Arabs being defiantly hopeful about their chances for a better life. These findings underline that Arab countries must focus on creating the right enabling environment for young people to thrive – the responsibility for this lies with both the government and the private sector.”
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