Democracy tops Arab youth wish-list: survey

Democracy continues to dominate the wish-list of young Arabs, according to a latest survey results that was announced on Tuesday.

In 2011 alone a massive 92 per cent of respondents for the Asda’a Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey in the GCC and other countries in the Middle East termed living in a democratic country as the most important priority compared to just 65 per cent in 2010.

Announcing the key finding of the 10-country survey that included 2,000 face-to-face interviews with Arab nationals and Arab expatriates between the ages of 18-24 in the six GCC countries along with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, Nicholas Nesson, Director of Finance Practice at Asda’a Burson-Marsteller said, the results are clearly indicative of the aspirations of young Arabs in the region.

Some of the other key findings of the survey are a growing anxiety about rising cost of living; increasing concern about the gap between the rich and the poor, less optimism about economic recovery and future outlook, an increasing preference to work in private sector and entrepreneurship and growing internet penetration, especially in the usage of social media.

Interestingly, the survey result also pointed out the increasing popularity of television with TV news channels emerging as the most trusted source of news, especially in Qatar and Iraq. Almost sixty per cent of the respondents vouched for TV news as their most trusted source of news, followed by 19 per cent for newspapers and eleven per cent for websites.

The interviews were conducted by international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) in December 2010 and January 2011.

Additionally, in February and March of this year, in the wake of protests across the region, PSB conducted an additional poll of 500 young people in five countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. The findings reveal that support of the protests is high, and so is the belief in the positive impact of these movements.

"During this period of seismic change across much of the Arab world, it is more important than ever that we understand the hopes, fears and aspirations of the region’s youth," said Mark Penn, Worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller. "As our 2009 survey showed, and as this year’s report further validates, the highest priority for young people in the region remains participation and representation in the political life of their country of residence. Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere are the manifestation of this fundamental truth: Arab youth have a deep and enduring desire for democracy."

"In a region where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30, policymakers, business leaders, marketers and the media need to understand the priorities of our young people," said Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, regional parent of Asda’a Burson-Marsteller. "We strongly believe that the 2010 Asda’a Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey should be required reading for everyone who has a stake in the future of this diverse and rapidly evolving region."





Other key findings include the following insights:


• The high cost of living is perceived as the most significant challenge, followed by unemployment; in both instances, the level of concern is much higher among youth in non-Gulf states than in Gulf states


• Arab youth are significantly more concerned about the gap between the rich and poor than they were in 2009, especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia


• While 63 per cent of GCC youth say they expect to pursue further education, just 14 per cent of non-GCC youth believe the same


• Arab youth prefer to work in the private sector (47per cent), rather than the public sector (40 per cent), although Saudi youth (79 per cent) strongly prefer to work for government; more than half of all regional youth say that they intend to start their own business in the next five years


• 80 per cent of Arab youth now say they use the Internet on a daily basis, up from 56 per cent in 2009; social networking is also expanding dramatically


• Television remains by far both the most popular and most trusted source of news for youth across the region


• Arab youth say that traditional values are extremely important to them, especially youth in Iraq (94 per cent) and Bahrain (91 per cent)


• Young Arabs have increasingly favourable views of major global powers, although Gulf and non-Gulf youth have very different perceptions about the dominant powers in the East and West; youth across the region also say that the concept of global citizenship is increasingly important to them.




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