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Young Arabs Poised to Maximize Their Potential

Young Arabs Poised to Maximize Their Potential

But just 23% say now is a good time to find a job in their communities

by Magali Rheault and Dalia Mogahed

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup Poll findings from 11 predominantly Arab countries show that despite challenging economic conditions, young people have great hopes of a better future and are poised to contribute to their communities.

Gallup asked respondents aged 15 to 29 in predominantly Arab countries as well as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States to evaluate their life satisfaction using a "ladder" scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where "0" indicates the worst possible life and "10" the best possible life. Gallup specifically asked respondents which steps they stood on five years ago, where they stand now, and where they expect to stand five years from now and calculated mean scores to show average standing.

Across 11 countries in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, respondents' mean rating of their lives five years ago is 4.9 and 5.2 for their present situation. But when asked about where they expect to be five years from now, respondents report a mean score of 6.6. In many Arab countries, respondents rate their present lives higher than their past, except in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon (the poll was conducted a few weeks after the 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel), the Palestinian Territories, and Yemen. It is important to note that the Kuwait and United Arab Emirates (UAE) samples include nationals and non-nationals.

Comparisons of ratings of current personal standing across countries range from a mean of 4.4 among young Palestinians to 7.2 among Saudi respondents. And looking ahead five years, the mean scores for Palestinian (6.0) and Yemeni (6.1) respondents suggest they are the least optimistic of those surveyed, while respondents from the UAE (mean of 8.2) are the most optimistic.

Although results from the ladder question show that Arab respondents' rate their past, present, and future life satisfaction lower than do young respondents in Western countries surveyed, respondents from the MENA region express similar, and in some cases, higher levels of hope of a better life, as measured by the difference between future and current standings.

Interestingly, young Saudis and Americans express similar levels of hope that their lives will improve in the future, with differences between future and current standings of 0.69 and 0.65, respectively. In all other MENA countries included in the poll, young Arabs express more hope for a better life than young Americans do. Furthermore, young respondents in Algeria and Kuwait express as much hope for the future as young Britons. Even in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Yemen, youths' stash of hope for a better life tops that expressed by young American, French, and German respondents.

But when asked about economic opportunities, young Arabs paint a bleak picture. Across all MENA countries surveyed, a median of just 23% of young respondents believe that now is a good time to find a job in their local communities. In the United States and the United Kingdom, almost 6 in 10 say now is a good to find a job, but in France and Germany, 14% and 22%, respectively, say the same.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 350 adults, aged 15 and older, in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen from June 2006 to September 2007. In the United States, the poll was conducted with 302 adults, aged 15 and older, in August 2007. In France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the polls were conducted with at least 240 people, aged 15 and older, in December 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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