Arab Youth Survey 2023: Most outside GCC have little confidence in their governments

Gap in trust in governments between young Arabs in the Gulf and those in areas such as North Africa and the Levant

Most young Arabs outside the GCC feel disenfranchised by their governments. Photo: Asda'a BCW
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Most young Arabs living outside of the GCC lack belief in their government's ability to address issues such as unemployment, corruption and the crisis in the cost of living.

That lack of confidence was shown by respondents living in North Africa and the Levant who took part in the 2023 Arab Youth Survey.

They [the government] work for their own interests and we are just pawns
Nour Jammoul, data analyst in Beirut

Their lack of belief was in stark contrast to the views of young Arabs in the GCC, especially those in the UAE, who said they had every faith in authorities.

More than one in two (54 per cent) of those who took part outside of the GCC believed their voices did not matter to their countries' leadership.

"They [the government] work for their own interests and we are just pawns," said Nour Jammoul, 25, a data analyst from Beirut, where protesters clashed with security forces this year over deteriorating economic conditions.

"We had to take matters into our own hands and do something for our future. Everyone is leaving in search of stability."

The survey was conducted face-to-face in 53 cities across 18 Arab states, with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 taking part.

Despite her frustration with her government, Ms Jammoul still had hope the situation could be turned around.

"The country is not moving in the right direction. It's stagnant right now," she said.

"But it definitely has potential to grow and prosper. We just need to make the right decisions and I do believe someday it won’t be as bad."

Almost half of the respondents living outside of the GCC also said they regularly struggled to cover their living expenses.

More than a quarter of youths in the Levant (27 per cent) and 20 per cent in North Africa said they were in debt, with student loans, medical costs, credit cards and car loans mostly responsible.

"It's very expensive to live here. It feels like the country isn't for us any more and is for foreigners," said Ms Jammoul.

"You also have to work at least two jobs to meet your needs. It’s not that difficult to find a job, but the pay might not be worth it given the fuel expenses."

She was far from alone with her despondent outlook on the running of her country.

"I don't think the country is going in the right direction," said a 23-year-old working for a marketing firm in Cairo who wished to remain anonymous.

"Our currency is no longer strong enough. You can still earn the same salary but with the devaluation from inflation you won't be able to meet your commitments."

There were less than four in 10 young Arabs (38 per cent ) in North Africa who believed their government could address unemployment.

The figure was even lower in the Levant where less than a third (32 per cent) said their government was capable of addressing the issue.

More than half of the youth in the Levant (57 per cent) and North Africa (50 per cent) said they struggled to find a job at home.

Positive outlook across the GCC

“What stands out in this year’s survey is the fact that, once again, young GCC citizens are poles apart from their fellow Arabs in North Africa and the Levant," said Sunil John, founder of Asda'a BCW, the PR agency that conducts the annual survey.

"A path to a better future for these young men and women must be found if we are to ensure the Arab world’s precious youth dividend is not lost."

More than three in four (78 per cent) in the GCC said they felt their voices did matter, while 87 per cent said their governments had the right policies to address their needs.

Practically all young Emiratis (98 per cent) said they had confidence in their government's ability to address unemployment, most likely as a result of the ongoing Emiratisation initiative.

This compared to 70 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 67 per cent in Oman, 64 per cent in Kuwait and 61 per cent in Bahrain.

Young Arabs in these countries also overwhelmingly believed their governments had the ability to tackle corruption.

Again, UAE youth had the highest level of confidence with 97 cent, followed by 84 per cent in Oman, 82 per cent in Bahrain, 69 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 56 per cent in Kuwait.

"We’ve been lucky enough to have a government that subsidises a lot of essentials including electricity, water and food stock, and also setting rules and standards for increasing price points," said Emirati Abdulla Al Samahi, a recent graduate who works in cyber security.

"The UAE and its governing body should be taken as a standard on how governments should operate, by putting its people and their interests first."

Emirati youths (98 per cent) also strongly believed their government could successfully handle the rising cost of living.

There was only 15 per cent of GCC youths who said they struggled to pay their expenses in full, with 16 per cent saying they were in debt.

Student loans (25 per cent), car loans (15 per cent), marriage loans (11 per cent) and excessive shopping (9 per cent) were given as the main reasons.

Updated: July 18, 2023, 10:58 AM