Three-quarters of Arab youth, the region’s largest demographic, say their best days are ahead of them in the fifth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey. An overwhelming 74 percent of all Arab youth surveyed in 15 countries across MENA agree with the statement: “Our best days are ahead of us."
In each of the 15 countries surveyed, a clear majority are optimistic about the future, with a nearly equal percentage of youth in the Gulf and non-Gulf states (76 percent and 72 percent, respectively) saying “our best days are ahead of us”. Likewise, more than half (58 percent) believe their country is “heading in the right direction” considering the last 12 months, while 55 percent say their national economy is also heading in the right direction.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, regional youth are prouder than ever of their national identity – and they increasingly embrace modern values and beliefs. Nearly nine out of 10 young Arabs (87 percent) feel “more proud to be an Arab” following the uprisings, and 59 percent believe recent changes in their country will have a positive impact on them and their family. Two-thirds (67 percent) feel “better off” following the events of the Arab Spring and 45 percent believe their national government has become more transparent.
For the second consecutive year, “being paid a fair wage” is the highest priority of Middle East youth, cited by 82 percent of all those surveyed. The importance of fair pay is followed by home ownership, with 66 percent of Arab youth describing “owning their own home” as “very important”. Yet nearly a fifth (15 percent) of young Arabs believe they will never be able to afford their own home.
Rising living costs remain the number one concern of Arab youth, also for the second straight year in the annual study, with 62 percent saying they are “very concerned” about the issue. According to the latest findings, the rising cost of living is a bigger worry than “the economy”, “the threat of terrorism”, “events of the Arab Spring” and “unemployment”.
“Civil unrest” and “lack of democracy” are identified as the main obstacles in the way of the MENA region’s development, while “lack of Arab unity”, the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” and “lack of political direction” are other barriers. GCC and non-GCC youth are equally concerned about civil unrest, with 44 percent in both sets of countries highlighting the issue as the Arab World’s biggest obstacle.
Meanwhile, the UAE continues to be regarded as a model nation. Asked to name the country, anywhere in the world, where they would most like to live, Arab youth cite the UAE as their preference, as they did last year. The UAE is the top choice of 31 percent of Arab youth across the 15 countries surveyed, followed by France (18 percent), the United States and Turkey (16 percent).
Two years on from the start of the Arab Spring, the overall percentage of young people updating themselves on news and current affairs daily appears to have fallen, from its 2012 peak of 52 percent to 46 percent this year. Television is now the primary source of news for 72 percent of regional youth (up from 62 percent in 2012), while 59 percent of all Arab youth rely on online news sources, an 8 percent increase from 2012.
Newspaper readership among Arab youth continues to plummet, from 62 percent in 2011, to 32 percent in 2012 and 24 percent this year. Magazines have experienced a slight gain from last year, but only 8 percent of Arab youth say they get their news from magazines. By comparison, social media is cited as the primary source of news of 28 percent of all Arab youth, up from 20 percent last year.
Television continues to be the most-trusted news source, cited by 40 percent of respondents, but trust in TV has dropped, from 49 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2011. Likewise, newspapers are losing trust, with only 9 percent of respondents to this year’s survey citing print dailies as their most-trusted source of news. Meanwhile, the percentage of Arab youth who say they consider social media to be their “most-trusted source of news” has nearly tripled from 2012 to 22 percent.