The majority of young Arab nationals in the Gulf think their region is moving in the right direction, but they believe that creating new, well-paying jobs, modernising the education system and cracking down on government corruption are the top priorities to keep the Arab world on track going forwards, according to the results of a new survey released on Tuesday.
The Arab Youth Survey was conducted in January and February 2018 and included 3,500 face-to-face interviews with Arab males and females from 16 Arab countries. It was commissioned by public relations firm ASDA’A Burson Marsteller and conducted by international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland.
The survey covered young Arab nationals aged between 18 and 24 years old and living in the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain - as well as Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. (Click here to the read the pdf of the survey results
While 55 percent of respondents said they believe the Arab world as a region has moved in the wrong direction over the past 10 years, there were some major disparities in opinion, with this negative sentiment rising to 85 percent in the Levant area, but dropping to 34 percent in the more affluent, oil-rich GCC countries.
Looking ahead, 34 percent of respondents believe defeating terrorist organisations is the most important issue in helping the region move in the right direction over the next decade. Thirty percent said creating new, well-paying jobs was the most important, followed by modernising the education system (29 percent) and cracking down on government corruption (28 percent). One in five of respondents also believe governments need to make it easier to start a business, while 14 percent said there needs to be more personal freedom for citizens and the same percentage called for more encouragement for technological innovation.
Corruption was a big news story in Saudi Arabia this year, with dozens of high-profile princes, government officials and businessmen detained as part of an anti-corruption drive ordered by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This policy drew almost widespread support among Arab youth surveyed as part of this year’s study.
The Saudi government’s Vision 2030 reform plan to reduce the kingdom’s dependency on hydrocarbons and diversify the economy also enjoyed high support among young Saudis.
Part of the Vision 2030 reforms also include a drive to modernise some of the more conservative cultural norms in Saudi Arabia, including permitting women to drive and allowing entertainment facilities, such as cinemas and concerts, for the first time in decades. That said, the majority of respondents said they believe governments in the Arab world need to do more to improve personal freedoms and womens' rights.
Arab youth opinions of the United States are also quite somewhat contradictory, as while many view the country’s politics, and its president, in a negative light, many also see it as a good country to live in.
Last year, around two-thirds, or 64 percent, of Arab youngsters surveyed viewed Trump’s presidency with concern, anger or fear and 83 percent saw Trump as the least favourite U.S. president compared to his predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. (Read more here).
This year, 73 percent of respondents said the election of President Donald Trump has had a negative impact on the Arab world.
Over the last two years, Arab youth impressions of the U.S. have changed, with most of those surveyed now viewing the superpower as an enemy instead of an ally. At the same time, America’s downfall in the minds of young Arabs has been replaced by a growing positivity towards Russia.
Despite this, the U.S. was still ranked as the top non-Arab country respondents said they would like to live in, with the United Arab Emirates once again topping the overall list for the seventh year in a row.
While job creation is a big priority for Arab youth, for those looking to enter the business world, technology is the most popular sector, taking over from retail and real estate, which were the focus of attention in previous years.
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(Writing by Shane McGinley; Editing by Michael Fahy)
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