-Being paid a fair wage and home ownership remain their highest priorities, and rising living costs their top concern
-UAE continues to be seen as a model nation, while France, Germany and China are regarded most favourably among countries outside MENA
Dubai, UAE, April 9, 2013: Representing a resounding vote of confidence in the Middle East and North Africa’s future outlook, 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, released today. An overwhelming 74% of all Arab youth surveyed in 15 countries across MENA agree with the statement: “Our best days are ahead of us”.
A ground-breaking initiative of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the leading public relations consultancy in MENA, the Arab Youth Survey is aimed at providing reliable data and insights into the attitudes and aspirations of the region’s 200 million-strong youth population, informing policy- and decision-making of both government and the private sector.
ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller selected international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) to complete 3,000 face-to-face interviews with exclusively Arab national men and women aged 18-24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and in three new countries added this year: Morocco, Algeria and Yemen. The survey was conducted between December 2012 and January 2013.
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% and 72%, respectively) saying “our best days are ahead of us”. Likewise, more than half (58%) believe their country is “heading in the right direction” considering the last 12 months, while 55% 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%) feel “more proud to be an Arab” following the uprisings, and 59% believe recent changes in their country will have a positive impact on them and their family. Two-thirds (67%) feel “better off” following the events of the Arab Spring and 45% 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% of all those surveyed. The importance of fair pay is followed by home ownership, with 66% of Arab youth describing “owning their own home” as “very important”. Tellingly, nearly a fifth (15%) 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% 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% 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, as they did in 2012, cite the UAE as their preference. The UAE is the top choice of 31% of Arab youth across the 15 countries surveyed, followed by France (18%), the United States and Turkey (16%).
When asked which country in the world they would most like their country to be like, the UAE again retains its first-place ranking, with nearly a third of all youth (30%) voting for that country.
A fifth of Arab youth would also prefer their country to follow the UAE’s model of development; the country ranks first ahead of France, the United States and China (each country the preference of 11% of respondents), Turkey (9%) and Germany (7%).
France is the country outside MENA regarded most favourably by Arab youth, followed by Germany and China. But out of France, Germany, China, the UK, the United States and India, only India has experienced an increase in favourability since the last Arab Youth Survey in 2012; 29% of youth describe their perception of the country as “very favourable”, up from 28% last year.
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% to 46% this year.
Representing a significant shift in media consumption patterns, television is now the primary source of news for 72% of regional youth (up from 62% in 2012), while 59% of all Arab youth rely on online news sources, an 8% increase from 2012.
Newspaper readership among Arab youth continues to plummet, from 62% in 2011, to 32% in 2012 and 24% this year. Magazines have experienced a slight gain from last year, but only 8% of Arab youth say they get their news from magazines. By comparison, social media is cited as the primary source of news of 28% of all Arab youth, up from 20% last year.
Television continues to be the most-trusted news source, cited by 40% of respondents, but trust in TV has dropped, from 49% in 2012 and 60% in 2011. Likewise, newspapers are haemorrhaging trust, with only 9% of respondents to this year’s Arab Youth 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%.
Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, the regional parent company of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, said: “The fifth ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey illustrates that despite the negative media headlines attributed to the region, Arab youth retain a strong sense of hope for the future and are determined to achieve a better life for themselves and their families. However, the issues identified by the Arab Youth Survey are persistent and deep-rooted and require the ongoing attention of decision makers across the MENA region.”
Jeremy Galbraith, CEO, Burson-Marsteller, Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “Arab youth continue to fascinate and confound international observers and their unwavering optimism is an example to their peers around the world. From their attitudes towards their region and countries beyond it, Arab youth are clearly displaying an increased confidence in their own ability to shape their collective future – a development which poses significant challenges and opportunities to the region’s leadership.”
Sunil John, Chief Executive Officer of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, added: “Every year ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller conducts the Arab Youth Survey because we understand the importance of providing reliable data here in the Middle East, where research into public opinion is often limited. This substantial investment in thought leadership demonstrates our firm belief in the principle of evidence-based communications.
“We hope the findings of the latest Arab Youth Survey will contribute to further constructive dialogue on realising the hopes and aspirations of young people across the Arab World.”
The findings of the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2013 were unveiled at a high-profile panel discussion in Dubai attended by local dignitaries and VIPs. The evening debate was led by His Excellency Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, and fellow panellists Dr Tarik Yousef, Chief Executive Officer, Silatech, Qatar; Dr Adel Al Toraifi, Editor-in-Chief, Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Majalla magazine; and Hassan Fattah, Editor-in-Chief, The National.
Moderated by Nima Abu-Wardeh, Presenter of BBC World’s Middle East Business Report, the assembled audience considered the implications of the survey findings for government decision makers, the business community, media and wider civil society, as well as the new thinking and policy changes required to address the hopes and concerns of Arab youth.
More in-depth findings from the fifth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey are freely available from the study’s dedicated website: www.arabyouthsurvey.com.