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Findings from the 12th Arab Youth Survey


Findings from the 12th Arab Youth Survey

Launched in 2008, the Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey is the largest survey of its kind of the Middle East and North Africa region, covering its largest demographic – the youth. The findings of the survey provide governments, the private sector, civil society and academia with insights into the hopes, concerns and aspirations of Arab youth. The survey polled 4,000 young Arab nationals, aged 18 to 24, from 17 Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa with a 50:50 male female split.

For its 12th edition, PSB, a global strategic research and analytics consultancy, conducted the study in two parts: The main survey before the coronavirus outbreak, and the second Covid-19 pulse survey  following the crisis. The pulse survey was only conducted in six Arab states. Here are the findings –


  • Two in five young Arabs have considered leaving their country.
  • Economic factors and corruption are the two strongest drivers of emigration among Arab youth.
  • Among the youth who have considered emigration, moving to a new country has been cited as  the top personal goal over the next decade.
  • Since the pandemic began, nearly one-third of Arab youth are more likely to emigrate due to the
    impact of the virus.


  • The protests that took place last year in Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq and Sudan were widely supported by the youth across those four countries.
  • Majority of the youth in these four countries believe that the protests will lead to real positive change.
  • The main catalysts for social unrest and protests are corruption and bad governance.
  • According to the survey, Covid-19 could lead to further political unrest, especially in Lebanon.


  • The youth in the Levant and North Africa say government corruption is widespread.
  • 36% of Arab youth view tackling government corruption as the top priority for the region to move forward.
  • 100% of Emirati and 91% of Saudi youth give strong marks to their governments on handling Covid-19.

Personal Debt

  • Over a third of Arab youth(35%) say they are in personal debt, a significant jump from previous years.
  • Majority of the youth cite student and car loans as the top reasons for personal debt.
  • Many young Arabs in the Levant are struggling financially.
  • One-third of Arab youth say their household debt has increased since the pandemic.


  • Most are concerned about unemployment, but only half have confidence in their government on the issue.
  • More young Arabs are starting to look beyond traditional government and private sector jobs.
  • Arab youth are finding it more difficult to find a job due to Covid-19.
  • 20% of young Arabs say they or someone in their family has lost their job due to Covid-19.


  • 40% of young Arabs view religion as central to their identity, more so than family or nationality.

  • 61% of Arab youth living in North Africa believe religion is particularly important to their personal identity.
  • 41% of Arab youth say their religion remains central to their identity.
  • 89% of Arab youth in the GCC support the restrictions put on the Hajj to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Gender Rights

  • 64% of young Arab women say they have the same rights as men in their country.
  • 52% of young Arab women say they have the same professional opportunities as men.
  • 76% of young Arab women and 70% of young Arab men agree that a woman can benefit her family most if she works.
  • 67% of Arab youth believe both work and family responsibilities are increasing for women due to Covid-19.

These findings help in debunking stereotypical notions of the region, particularly on gender rights.

Model Nations

  • For the ninth year running, 46% of Arab youth cite the UAE as the country they would like to reside in.
  • 52% of Arab youth want their country to emulate the UAE.
  • 44% of Arab youth associate the UAE with safety and security while 36% associate the country with a wide range of opportunities.
  • National pride has increased among many young Arabs, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia

Foreign Relations

  • Arab youth view Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US as the three rising powers in the region.
  • Perceptions of the UAE and Saudi Arabia have strengthened over the past five years, while the US reputation has begun to recover.
  • 21% of Arab youth view the UAE as having shown the greatest leadership in
    combatting Covid-19

“For years, the UAE has served as a beacon of hope in the region. The unique model of the nation, celebrating social, religious and cultural pluralism, continues to gain the admiration of young Arabs, who see the UAE as the top nation in the world, over Western and Eastern counterparts, to live in and emulate. This is a powerful statement on the positivity and progressive outlook of the UAE leadership and people,” said  Sunil John, President – Middle East of BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW.

Digital Generation

  • 79% of Arab youth today get their news mainly through social media.
  • 62% of Arab youth consume video content mainly on their smartphones.
  • 53% of Arab youth are subscribed to a video streaming service while 62% are subscribed to a music streaming service.
  • E-commerce has experienced exponential growth since 2017. Today, 80% of Arab youth do their shopping mainly on e-commerce sites.
  • Covid-19 is further accelerating Arab youth’s embrace of the digital transformation.

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