UAE a place of hope for Arab youth - GulfToday

UAE a place of hope for Arab youth


The UAE remains a favourite emigration destination for Arabs across the region.

The Arab Youth Survey 2021 in its 13th edition has come up with interesting revelations, which reflects the changing global economic and political situation on the one hand, and social and cultural perceptions on the other. The survey covers 17 countries spanning the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Levant and North Africa.

What seems to have remained a constant feature in the survey done over more than a decade is that the Arab youth, who form 60 per cent of the population, have looked to the UAE as an ideal modern country with the right economic model of development. The UAE has also remained a favourite emigration destination for Arabs across the region. Internationally, there is the perception that in diplomatic terms, the youth see Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia as important players in the Arab world, though the United States remains the most important influence in the region. This is an important distinction because the Arab youth seem to be sending out a clear message that outside players, including the United States, have less to managing the internal affairs of the Arab region. This is a rising assertion of Arab identity, in political and cultural terms.

But there have been perceptible changes between the year of the COVID-19 in 2020 and the year of emerging from the pandemic in 2021. The youth are more optimistic this year than they were in the last. And they also are less inclined to emigrate to Western countries, even to the United States and Canada, followed by France and Germany, than they were before. Secondly, many of them are now turning to be work for their families than find a secure job with their governments. And to go with this desire, they want governments loosen their grip over the economy by deregulating. There is then a preference for a free market economy. Youth in the Levant are also worried about corruption in their governments, and they see it as a major challenge.

At the social and economic level, lesser number of youth than earlier see religion as their defining identity, and they also see a need for reforms in their religious institutions, which implies they would want to deal with religion more at the personal level and see faith as a matter between the individual and God. But most of them see as their primary identity as an Arab in cultural terms, that is in terms of language and way of living and believing. What seems to be slightly disappointing is the perception of women that they do not enjoy equal rights with men, that men have an advantage, unfair of course, in access to jobs compared to women, though majority of women and men still believe that women doing a job help in managing the family economy.

It is a necessary caveat with all surveys that they indicate a trend and they do not reflect the granular bits of reality. But trends are important because the positive ones give hope, and the negatives show where improvements are needed. The major sentiment of the Arab Youth Survey 2021 is that of optimism this year compared to the last. The sense of optimism is a big factor after going through the trauma of the pandemic, something not seen in a century.

The last big one was the influenza epidemic of 1918. In 2020, the mood in the Arab youth had its dark shadows. The shadows have now receded.

There is confidence in the future and its importance cannot be overemphasised.

The youth want to move ahead, and they think that their lives will be much better than that of the earlier generation. Many of them are also aware that they are going through a difficult period in terms of managing their personal finances, but they feel they can overcome the difficulties.

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