Arab Youth Survey 2020: 1 in 5 report job loss as Covid-19 wreaks havoc on young people

More than 90 per cent of Lebanese and Jordanian youths expect to struggle to find work

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One in five young Arabs said they or someone in their family has lost their job due to coronavirus, a survey has found.

A staggering 72 per cent said it was “much more difficult” or a “little more difficult” to find a job now compared with the pre-Covid era.

In the UAE, 41 per cent said finding a new job is more difficult now than before the pandemic.

Uncertainty regarding finding employment is greatest among Lebanese and Jordanian youth where nine in ten said finding a job is more difficult because of coronavirus.

Lockdowns have led to massive job losses and rising inequality

The findings from this year’s Arab Youth Survey lay bare the havoc wreaked by Covid-19.

From job concerns to exploding personal debt to changing online habits, coronavirus has radically reshaped the hopes and dreams of so many youngsters since it swept through the region from March.

“While the expectations of Arab youth remain high, the Covid-19 pandemic brings unprecedented uncertainty,” said Jihad Azour, director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia Department.

“Lockdowns have led to massive job losses and rising inequality. We are seeing a rapid deceleration in economic activity. For nearly all countries, the recession is deeper than the ones following the global financial crisis in 2008 and the oil price shock of 2015.”

This year’s Arab Youth Survey was carried out between January and March, but a snap Covid-19 “pulse” survey was conducted in August to assess the severity of the crisis. Here are several other findings:

Corruption and Covid-19 handling

When asked how strongly they approve or disapprove of the way their government is handling the response to coronavirus, nearly 71 per cent said they "approve". However, some major regional differences exist. While 100 per cent of Emirati youth, and a majority of young Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians approved of their governments’ approach, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of young Lebanese disapproved. When asked about government corruption during the pandemic, 76 per cent of all surveyed said it is still present.

Foreign relations

When the first cases of Covid-19 were detected in the UAE last March, authorities moved swiftly and established drive-in testing centres, imposed night stay-home restrictions and launched public awareness drives. Today, the UAE is cautiously reopening its economy despite an uptick in cases. Arab youth view the UAE as having shown greatest leadership in tackling the pandemic. One in five said the country showed the greatest leadership in combating Covid-19, slightly more than those who picked China (20 per cent).

“The pandemic has shown that trust between citizens and states greatly facilitates effective policy implementation,” said Mr Azour. “Trust can be strengthened further by improving governance and tackling corruption.”


A third of Arab youth are more likely to emigrate due to Covid-19. While 77 per cent of Lebanese youth are more likely to emigrate, all Emiratis prefer to live in their home country, with a resounding zero per cent saying they are "more likely" to leave. Less than half of young Algerians (41 per cent) and one in three young Jordanians and Egyptians (33 per cent each) too are keener to emigrate as a result of Covid-19, while only 9 per cent of young Saudis say they are "more likely" to emigrate.


Young Emiratis (100 per cent) rule out protests as a result of the impact of the pandemic, which reflects the quick response made by authorities. However, Arab youth believe the crisis could lead to further political unrest, especially in Lebanon. Nearly three-quarters of young Lebanese said protests are “much more or somewhat more likely” while less than half (41 per cent) of young Egyptians and one in three young Jordanians echoed the view. Only 14 per cent of young Saudis see the likelihood of protests.

The digital generation

The use of online platforms has surged since the pandemic. When asked whether they are shopping online, streaming video and making contactless payments more or less frequently now, Arab youth said they are doing more of all three. While 67 per cent said they are streaming videos more frequently, half of young Arabs said they shop online more often and nearly as many (49 per cent) said they make more contactless payments.

“The tech-savvy young Arabs can be the anchor countries need to better integrate into the new global economic order through digitalisation and new technologies,” said Mr Azour.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2020.   
  Sanitation workers from Tadweer spraying the pedestrian crossing on Hamdan and Fatima Bint Mubarak Street.  Emiratis and residents across the UAE must stay home this weekend while a nationwide cleaning and sterilisation drive is carried out.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani

Personal debt

The coronavirus pandemic has seen the start of a debt crisis. A third of young Arabs say household debt level has increased since the start of the pandemic. Only 10 per cent reported that their household debt level has decreased. The increase is more pronounced in the Levant and North Africa, where 40 per cent and 31 per cent of young Arabs reporter higher household debts compared with only 17 per cent in the GCC.

Gender rights

Most young Arab women say they have the same rights as men but their work and family responsibilities are increasing since the pandemic swept through the region.

More than half (54 per cent) said women are more likely to look for a job, while 67 per cent said women are more likely to have family responsibilities.

More than one-third of young Arabs (35 per cent) said women are less likely to look for a job and just about one in five said women have less family responsibility since the onset of the pandemic.

Model nations

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more young Arabs are proud to be a citizen of their country.

In the UAE, a huge 98 per cent of young Emiratis said they are “more proud” as did 77 per cent of young Saudis. However, pride in being citizens of their country is less pronounced in the Levant and North Africa, especially in Lebanon where about two-thirds (62 per cent) said they are “less proud”.

Religion and identity

Religion continues to be important. When asked following the outbreak of Covid-19 their views on personal identity and religion, 41 per cent of young Arabs said religion remains central to their identity. Concerning the restrictions put on Hajj due to situation, 78 per cent supported the decision - more so in the GCC where 89 per cent supported it compared with 77 per cent in the Levant and 68 per cent in North Africa.

Researchers conducted 600 face-to-face and online interviews for the Covid-19 pulse survey among young Arab residents of six countries: Algeria; Egypt; Jordan; Saudi Arabia; Lebanon and the UAE. All countries bar the UAE were conducted online, while respondents in the UAE were 40 per cent each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and 20 per cent in Sharjah