Arab Youth Concur on Three Priorities as Cornerstones of Development
August 12, 2020, 5:03 am
Young people in the Arab world have unanimously agreed on the three priorities that are critical to their development and to shaping the future of their countries, according to the Arab Youth Priorities study, published by the Arab Youth Center (AYC) on the eve of International Youth Day. Those priorities were the first choices for more than 60 percent of the nearly 7,000 young people in the age group of 15 to 34 years surveyed across 21 Arab countries.
The full list of Arab youth priorities from the 11 major sectors in focus was announced during the AYC-organized Arab Youth Priorities Conference, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, on the eve of the International Youth Day.
The conference was held under the patronage of the League of Arab States (Arab League), and with the participation of the United Nations and several Arab youth ministers and youth sector officials from different parts of the Arab world.
The First Three
Young people in the Arab world chose stability, education, and health as the top three priorities, according to the study, which surveyed the most important issues of concern to Arab youth.
Security and stability placed first, with 73 percent of the respondents participating in the study naming it their top priority on the list. The participants also highlighted key factors within this priority, the most important of which is living in a safe society and environment that are free from conflicts, wars and all forms of violence.
Three criteria within this priority attained the highest percentages in the study, which are living in safe neighborhoods by 55% of the number of participants, living in an environment free of conflicts and wars by 41%, and living in societies free of domestic violence by 40%.
Education placed second among the priorities of Arab youth, as the choice of 70 percent of the survey participants. The participants articulated their keenness and ambition for a high quality educational system with improved curricula that would take into account the actual and anticipated future needs of the dynamic labor market and ensure positive outcomes. They also hoped that such a system would offer the provision of free education to those in need.
The three most prominent elements within this priority were the quality and improvement of curricula by 71%, free education by 55%, and linking curricula with the need of the labor market by 33% of the total number of participants.
Healthcare was third among the Arab youth priorities, and was the choice of more than 62 percent of the youth participants of the study. In this context, they highlighted that they would like to see enhancements in the quality of health care in their countries that could lead to a greater confidence in it, as well as the provision of free health services and affordably-priced medicines.
Within the priority of health care, the participants chose the most important three factors to enhance it, including the quality of health care and confidence in it by 67%, access to free health services by 59%, and the ability to provide medicines at affordable prices by 40% of the participants in the study.
The participants in the study also voiced positive expectations for the Arab economy, whose size is currently valued at US$2.8 trillion, with a projected real GDP growth of 2.7 percent for the next five years.
The report concluded that taking into account the priorities of Arab youth during the development of strategies, policies and action plans of Arab government entities and institutions concerned with youth work, will positively affect the utilization of the tremendous capabilities of the Arab youth, which represents more than a third (34%) of the age group 15 to 35 years of the total population in the Arab countries.
Income and Work
Among the other core priorities of the Arab youth, the fourth and fifth places went to enhancing income sources and providing job opportunities respectively, with 31 percent of the participants selecting both.
In the priority of sources of income, the participants chose three basic elements: obtaining a government subsidy to provide basic living needs by 50% of the participants, obtaining financial support to establish a private business or start-up companies by 45%, and obtaining additional income by 43% of the participants.
In the priority of job opportunities, the participants identified the three most important factors, namely obtaining a decent job that provides a steady income in an appropriate environment by 64% of the participants, finding a suitable job that is appropriate to the field of study, interest or experience by 46%, and providing suitable job opportunities for people of determination by 30% of the total number of participants.
Self-development and character-building was number six on the list of priorities, and was the choice of 17 percent of all participants. Within this priority, they included aspects such as building healthy relations with families and friends, developing skills and capabilities, and integration.
As part of this priority, three aspects came on top, where 60% of participants chose the ability to preserve healthy and strong relations with families and friends, 43% who chose skill development, and 40% who chose the ease of integration and meeting new people.
Environment and Utilities
The environment and infrastructure were on seventh and eighth spot on the list of priorities, selected by 12 percent and 11 percent of the participants. In terms of the environment, the Arab youth surveyed reiterated the importance of improving waste disposal methods and preserving natural resources. Regarding infrastructure, Arab youth focused on meeting the demand for youth housing, improving transportation, and ensuring the sustainability of utilities, such as water, electricity and fuel.
As part of the environment priority, participants selected three key aspects, including the improvement of waste disposal methods (55% of participants), stopping the depletion of natural resources (47%), and the ability to recycle and sort waste accurately (41%).
On the infrastructure front, 54% of participants focused on building new houses that meet local demand, while 42% of participants focused on the development of transportation methods, and another 42% on providing utilities like water, electricity and fuel.
Number nine on the list of priorities for Arab youth was social empowerment (10 percent), with participants emphasizing the need to empower all social segments (59%) and provide them with opportunities to enable them to bridge the income gap (42%). In addition, they recommended abandoning age-old social norms and habits (32%).
Technological progress assumed the tenth place (8 percent), with participants hoping to see enhancements in the quality of the internet connection and network speeds (65%), as well as greater ease in connecting to the internet from all locations (63%), and affordable internet access (42% of participants).
Number 11 on the list of priorities among the youth surveyed was entertainment – selected by 6 percent of the participants. Three aspects were on top of this priority, including providing enough entertainment places (46% of those participants), sports facilities and enhancing their access (46%), and providing incentives in the tourism and travel sector (35%).
Within the social pillar, the study recommended enhancing regional stability as a key component in creating better opportunities for the youth. It also called for improving volunteering prospects for Arab youth in collaboration with universities, schools, civil society organizations, and the private sector, and for the building youth centers and facilities to help them upskill.
With regard to the economic pillar, the study’s outcomes recommended greater government spending to ensure free education, enhance educational curricula and link them to the requirements of the job market. In addition, it recommended improving healthcare systems, boosting public-private sector partnerships to create more jobs for the youth, and increasing investments in technological infrastructure as technology can bridge the gap between various social segments and improve opportunities for the youth, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
In terms of the environmental pillar, the study recommended stepping up initiatives to preserve the environment and ensure the sustainability of natural resources, investing in green infrastructure, reducing the costs of water and electricity services, and relying on renewable sources like solar power.
In conducting the study in cooperation with YouGov, AYC surveyed approximately 7,000 young people in 21 Arab countries to learn about Arab youth priorities, analyze the results and make the findings accessible to decision makers in the Arab world to help create policies and programs to realize the priorities of the region’s young people.
The survey adopted a quantitative methodology based on online questionnaires and personal interviews in Arabic, while the sample was randomly selected to represent Arab youth in the age group of 15 to 34 years.
Through studying Arab youth priorities and conducting other research and knowledge projects, AYC aims to contribute in drawing an accurate picture of the most prominent youth needs and ambitions, and provide a clear map for decision-makers and those in charge of youth work in Arab countries to develop successful youth strategies, programs and initiatives that make a positive difference and support development on all levels.