The Second ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey was carried out in October last year and involved face-to-face interviews with 2,000 Arab youths aged 18 to 24 years old in nine countries. Here is the summary overview and key findings:
The single most important priority for young people in the Middle East is living in a democratic country, followed by having quality infrastructure, and access to the best universities: 99 per cent of those interviewed said living in a democracy was either ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’. In Kuwait, 100 per cent of the sample believed having good infrastructure like electricity, clean water, and safe roads are ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’.
Arab youth appear upbeat in their predictions of a financial revival: Overall, only 16 per cent of the study’s 2,000 respondents said their company increased in size in 2009, but more than double that percentage of Arab youth thought their employer would expand in 2010. Arab youth in the UAE are the most confident about a rebound in 2010.
The rising cost of living, shortage of affordable housing, and unemployment are the top three worries for Arab youth: The rising cost of living is the dominant concern, with 67 per cent of the sample saying they are ‘very concerned’ about the issue, compared with 45 per cent for lack of affordable housing, the second biggest worry.
Despite the rapid acceptance by young Arabs of the digital age, nearly half of all those surveyed read a newspaper every day: Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE have the most voracious readers with 49 per cent, 46 per cent and 29 per cent respectively enjoying their dailies. TV and newspapers are the main sources of news, followed by the internet – and TV is also the most trusted source of news in all countries except Bahrain. Websites have the highest levels of trust in Saudi Arabia.
Staying in contact with friends appears to be the number one social networking activity for young people in the Middle East, especially for Arab nationals: 73 per cent of Arab nationals identified keeping in touch with friends as a purpose of social networking activity, compared with 67 per cent of Arab expatriates.
Arab youth generally perceive leading brand names very favourably, and some prominent Middle Eastern brands are positioned high in the rankings. Nokia, however, rates number one.
Two-thirds of Arab youth spend their leisure time in front of the TV, a fact which correlates with the region’s alarming levels of obesity and diabetes among young people. Less than a fifth admit to spending leisure time exercising, playing sports, or going to the gym.
Clothing, mobile phone calls and dining out are top three spending preferences for Arab youth: Clothing and mobile phone calls were cited as a major outgoing by a majority of male and female respondents (52 per cent of males and 54 per cent of females in each instance).
Many young people’s spending habits are leaving them in debt: More than a quarter of respondents claim to be in debt, rising to 52 per cent in Saudi Arabia. The culture of credits cards shoulders much of the blame.
The growing economic significance of the East, specifically China and India, appears to be influencing the way in which Arab youth regard the international community: In terms of ‘favourability’, China rates higher than Germany, the US and Britain. When it comes to national allies, Arab youth see Saudi Arabia as playing a leading role.
Arab youth travel close to home, with the Gulf and Levant being the most popular destinations: And when they fly, they prefer to go with a Middle Eastern airline. The top 10 airlines for youth are all Arab carriers.
Today’s Arab youth consider themselves as true citizens of the world: In the Survey, seven out of ten young people stated that the notion of global citizenship was ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important to them.
Arab youth are well-connected with the mobile phone emerging as a fashion and lifestyle necessity: nearly four out of five Arab youth own a mobile phone and a quarter of respondents claim to have their own web-enabled phone. More than 60 per cent of the sample across the nine countries in the study also has exclusive access to a desktop or laptop computer. The majority of Arab youth across the Middle East also use the internet daily to listen to music (61 per cent) or correspond via email (59 per cent).
Youth in the Middle East are evenly split on their preference to work in the government or private sector: But youth in the Gulf appear still strongly attached to a career in government, especially in Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.