Dissatisfied Arab youth speak out

26 June 2018
The 2018 Arab Youth Survey reveals that young people in the region believe the Arab world has ‘moved in the wrong direction’

The views of the Arab youth are pessimistic after a decade of unrest in the region, with the majority feeling that the Arab world has moved in the wrong direction over the past decade.

According to the results of the 2018 Arab Youth Survey by Asdaa Burson-Marstellar, 55 per cent of respondents to the survey – young Arabs aged 18-24 from 16 Arab states – held this view, an increase of 10 per cent on last year’s results.

Economic stagnation

The sentiment was most prominent in the Levant, where youth dissatisfaction has resulted from economic stagnation, compounded by the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria.

The vast majority, or 85 per cent, of youth in the Levant felt the Arab world has moved in the wrong direction, including 89 per cent of respondents in Lebanon and 88 per cent in Jordan, where youth unemployment stands at 39.8 per cent, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

In Iraq, economic growth contracted by 0.8 per cent in 2017, as Baghdad pushed to reclaim the final areas of Islamic State in Iraq & Syria control.

Wrong direction

In North Africa, almost half, or 49 per cent, of the youth felt the Arab world has moved in the wrong direction over the past decade. Here again, high unemployment rates and low-paid labour were a major source of dissatisfaction.

An estimated 29.3 per cent of North African youths are unemployed and 25 per cent live below the poverty line, according to the ILO.

The influence of the Arab Spring was also viewed negatively by 56 per cent of North African respondents, including by 52 per cent of those in Egypt. Just 23 per cent felt the opposite way, in a dim reflection on the rule of President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi.

Brighter sentiment

Sentiment was more positive in Tunisia, where 50 per cent of youths surveyed expressed positive feelings about the Arab Spring. Economic growth in Tunisia grew to 1.9 per cent in 2017, from 1 per cent in 2016, and is expected to reach 2.4 per cent in 2018, according to the IMF.

In Libya, where GDP bounced back by 70.8 per cent in 2017 due to the redevelopment of the petroleum industry, 42 per cent had positive feelings about the Arab Spring.

In the GCC, just 34 per cent said there has been a move in the wrong direction. In Oman, 48.2 per cent of young nationals lack employment, according to the ILO.

Nonetheless, 57 per cent of youth in the GCC said the Arab world has moved in the right direction over the past decade. The IMF reports that the region saw real GDP grow at an average of 4.9 per cent in 2000-14.

Youth unemployment

Across the region, the youth unemployment rate of 25.5 per cent was a persistent cause of discontent.

Thirty per cent of respondents named the creation of well-paying jobs as the most important change required for the Arab world to move forward, second only to the defeat of terrorist organisations.

And with more than 27.6 million young people entering the workforce in the next five years, the region requires even higher growth rates and more jobs to make progress.

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