Arab Youth are more concerned about fair pay, home ownership and a decent life than democracy, Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil told students at Sciences Po – Menton in the south of France.
The rising cost of living was a major concern although the lack of democracy and civil unrest were also seen as obstacles to progress, she said quoting the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2012 that analyzed data from 12 countries.
The study also revealed that while a majority of young people agreed traditional values were paramount, an increasing number of them said such values were outdated and should be replaced.
Creating jobs for a growing Arab youth population is a major challenge for decision makers following the outbreak of revolutions in a number of the region’s countries.
Demographic issues such as high population growth and pressures on labor markets compound the problem, Abu-Fadil said.
She also discussed young people’s contribution to revolutions gripping the Arab world and what prompted them to take to the streets.
The role social media played in the various uprisings was another topic of discussion, with Abu-Fadil explaining that such tools were not the ultimate influencers in these movements given the high rate of illiteracy and uneven access to the Internet.
Although prospects may appear dim, education reform could be an answer, with emphasis on critical thinking and the revisiting of school and university curricula to meet employers’ requirements.
The discussion in January 2013 was part of a week-long orientation program at the Middle East/Mediterranean campus of Sciences Po aimed at familiarizing students with the university’s undergraduate and graduate studies, life in the Middle East, and exchange programs available to them.