skip to main content
Arab Youth Perceive Many Barriers to Economic Opportunity

Arab Youth Perceive Many Barriers to Economic Opportunity

by Adam Sitte and Magali Rheault

This is the first article in a two-part series examining the views of youth in the League of Arab States toward job creation and entrepreneurship in their respective countries and the challenges they currently face to enter the job market.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In its first comprehensive report on the attitudes of young people in the League of Arab States, Gallup finds that in many of the countries surveyed, only minorities of respondents express satisfaction with efforts to increase the number of quality jobs.


With the exception of Iraq, majorities of youth living in the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iraq region say they are satisfied, with more than 6 in 10 in the United Arab Emirates (69%), Qatar (65%), and Kuwait (63%) saying this. Responses are more mixed in other regions, where high percentages of satisfaction are more the exception than the rule. In the Levant and Egypt, for example, roughly half of young Syrians and Jordanians are satisfied, compared with just 28% of young Egyptians and less than one-quarter of Lebanese (22%) and Palestinian youth (23%).

Findings from the Silatech Index: Voices of Young Arabs report underscore the importance of looking at young people as today's vital partners, rather than viewing them as tomorrow's beneficiaries for whom employment must be found. Gallup prepared the report in partnership with Silatech to measure and analyze attitudes of Arab youth with respect to their hopes and desires in life in 20 countries and areas that are members of the League of Arab States.

Examining public attitudes toward job creation and barriers to participation in the labor market is of particular importance in the Arab world, as 30% of the population in the greater Middle East North Africa region is between the ages of 15 and 29. This demographic cohort, 100 million strong, is the largest ever in the region to enter the job market.

Obstacles to Opportunity

Gallup asked Arab youth, in an open-ended question, to identify the primary obstacle for young people to get a job or a better job that enables them to start a family. The primary obstacles they most frequently identified can be classified under three main categories: lack of economic readiness, selection system readiness, and workforce readiness.

A shortage of good jobs, that is, a lack of economic readiness, is one of the most frequently mentioned obstacles across the youth populations polled. Needing connections (wasta) to get a job, or selection system readiness, is another obstacle youth frequently mentioned. When asked separately whether knowing people in high positions is critical to getting a job, majorities of youth in all countries polled agree that it is. Lack of proper training, or lack of workforce readiness, is another challenge mentioned by a sizable number of youth in most regions (with the exception of young people in the Levant and Egypt region).

Access the full report.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 293 youth nationals, aged 15 to 29, from February to April 2009 in Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia (Somaliland autonomous region), Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The margin of error is calculated around a proportion at the 95% confidence level and ranges from ±4.4 percentage points to ±6.6 percentage points across the countries polled. 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.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030