An overwhelming 89 percent of young Arabs expressed concern about levels of unemployment in their countries, according to a new finding from the 2019 ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, unveiled at an event organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington, DC today.
The event, “Youth Aspirations in the Middle East and North Africa,” was moderated by Brian Cheung, a reporter with Yahoo Finance, and featured a presentation of key findings from this year’s Survey – now in its 11th annual edition – by Sunil John, Founder, ASDA’A BCW, and President, Middle East, BCW, which included new data about young Arabs’ concerns over their careers.
Joining John on the panel were Her Excellency Sahar Nasr, Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Jihad Azour, Director, IMF Middle East and Central Asia and Syrine Chaalala, co-Founder and Managing Director, nextProtein.
As the largest demographic group of the Middle East and North Africa region, many Arab youth face severe hurdles joining the labour force, with World Bank research indicating 30 percent of 18-24 year olds are out of work in the Middle East and North Africa – the highest unemployment rate in the world. The 11th Arab Youth Survey shows that the rising cost of living and unemployment are the top two concerns among Arab youth but indicates a marked divide in opportunity between young Arabs living in the oil-rich Gulf states and their peers elsewhere, especially when it comes to expectations of their governments to address issues that matter to young people.
For example, while 97 percent of youth in UAE are confident their national government has the capacity to battle rising unemployment, 80 percent of youth in Iraq have no confidence in their governments to do the same.
Young Arabs in the wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states also look to their governments as a source of employment. Seven in 10 (69 percent) of youth in the GCC want to work in the public sector – while those elsewhere are more amenable to private sector jobs, with just four in 10 youth in North Africa (40 percent) and the Levant (39 percent) preferring government jobs.
Presenting these findings to the panel, Sunil John said, “As a developing region with some of the fastest growing economies in the world, Arab youth cannot afford to be left behind. Now, more than ever, the region’s young people require the support of their governments if they are to realise their potential and take up the productive, fulfilling and rewarding careers which are needed to drive the economies of the region to greater heights.”
Addressing the audience at the event, John said, “We are privileged to present our research at the prestigious IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings, and to share actionable insights with international governments and other decision makers. The Arab Youth Survey is for a platform for dialogue and I hope that the dialogue we spark today can be the basis of policies and actions that can help change the future for Arab youth.”
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group Annual Meetings bring together financial experts, government representatives, private sector executives, academics and other civil society organisation representatives to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.
The Arab Youth Survey is the largest study of its kind into the region’s largest demographic: its youth. Every year, ASDA’A BCW generates evidence-based insights that provide governments, the private sector, media and civil society with critical information and analysis to inform decision-making and policy formation and build greater awareness of Arab youth.
The full survey data is available at www.arabyouthsurvey.com.
 International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database, “Unemployment, youth total (% of total labour force ages 15-24) (modelled ILO estimate)”. Data retrieved in September 2019 by The World Bank