'Religion plays too big a role in the region' - ASDA'A BCW unveils findings of 11th Arab Youth Survey

ASDA'A BCW's Arab Youth Survey has been unveiled - showing the region's young people believe the UAE is the top country to live in, but think religion plays too big a role and that religious institutions should be reformed.

'Religion plays too big a role in the region' - ASDA'A BCW unveils findings of 11th Arab Youth Survey

Other key findings:

• Arab youth choose UAE as top country to live in for 8th year running

• 11th ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey reveals young Arabs associate the Emirates with job opportunities, security & stability and generous salaries

• Nine in ten also regard the UAE as their own country’s strongest ally, and say UAE is second only to Saudi Arabia among Arab nations in increasing its influence in the region over past five years

The 2019 edition of the Arab Youth Survey - which has previously won Best Campaign in Middle East/Africa at PRWeek Global Awards - showed that, for the eighth consecutive year, the UAE is seen by young Arabs as a model nation and the number one country to live in.

The survey, revealed in Dubai today (30 April), is based on 3,300 face-to-face interviews conducted by international research firm PSB between January 6 and January 29, 2019 with young Arab nationals aged 18-24 in 15 states in the Middle East and North Africa, with a 50:50 male-female split.

More than two in five (44 per cent) young Arabs say the UAE is the country they would want to live in, followed by Canada (22 per cent), United States (21 per cent), Turkey (17 per cent) and the United Kingdom (15 per cent). The preference of young Arabs for the UAE continues an eight-year trend that has seen the country cement its lead, particularly since 2015 when 20 per cent selected the UAE as their preferred country in which to live, a figure that has now more than doubled in 2019.

Young Arabs also see the UAE as a model nation, with 42 per cent stating they would like their country to emulate it, far surpassing any other Arab or Western country. The US and Japan tied in second position at 20 per cent each, followed by Turkey (19 per cent) and Canada (18 per cent) rounding out the top five.

"The UAE’s growing reputation among Arab youth as the best country to live in and for their nations to emulate highlights the forward-looking development strategy and future-focused vision of the UAE leadership," said Sunil John, President, ASDA’A BCW. "In the past eight years of the survey, the positive perception of the Emirates has only gained in strength year-on-year, underlining the UAE as a true beacon of hope and a model nation for young people across the region.

"From investments in world-class infrastructure to the focus of the leadership to build smart, sustainable cities and leverage the advantages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the UAE’s predominant narrative appeals to young people for the job opportunities and the quality of life the nation assures," John added.

The survey, the largest independent study of its kind into the region’s largest demographic, also finds that two-in-three (66 per cent) young Arabs say religion plays too big a role in the region – an increase of 16 percentage points since 2015 – while even more (79 per cent) say the region needs to reform its religious institutions. This call for reform can likely be explained by the fact that half (50 per cent) say the Arab world’s religious values are holding the region back.

Other key findings from this year’s survey revealed that three in four young Arabs are concerned about the quality of education in their country, and two in three say they would prefer to pursue higher education outside their country, while Arab youth view Saudi Arabia and the US as the two nations increasing their influence in the region more than any other countries.

For the first time in the history of the survey, Arab youth’s attitudes towards such issues as drug usage and mental health were explored. More than half (57 per cent) of young Arabs say that drug usage among young people in their country is on the rise, and 57 per cent also say that drugs are easy to obtain in their country.

When asked about mental health issues, a majority (54 per cent) say accessing quality medical care for mental health issues is difficult in their country, for some likely made even more difficult by the fact that half (50 per cent) of Arab youth say there is a stigma around seeking medical care for mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. The survey reveals that mental health is not an issue on the margins, as nearly one in three (31 per cent) say they know someone suffering from mental health issues.

It also revealed that the majority of young people across the Arab world want to see an end to regional conflicts.

"For 11 years, the survey has provided insights into the hopes, fears and aspirations of the region’s youth," said John. "This year’s findings show that youth are looking at their governments to reshuffle their priorities, especially when it comes to the role played by religion and seemingly endless conflicts – and they want to see change.

"Young Arabs who have grown up against a backdrop of extremism and geopolitical conflicts are tired of the region being defined by war and conflict. They say they want their leaders to focus on the economy and providing better services such as quality education and healthcare; and respondents, particularly in North Africa and the Levant, expect their governments to do much more to address these core concerns."

The full findings can be found at www.arabyouthsurvey.com

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