Is the Arab youth optimistic or pessimistic?

How do young Arabs see their future and that of their country? This is one of the most awaited indicators from Generation What?, which offers the Arab youth to draw the portrait of their generation (see the results in real time on the website arab.generation-what.org). The survey now counts 4,500 respondents and is starting to reveal strong indicators. Once again, we can only speak here of “trends” rather than “results” at this stage of our project.

Would you say you are optimistic about your future?

Our first surprise: when asked the following question, “When looking at your future, would you say you are: very pessimistic, quite pessimistic, quite optimistic or very optimistic?”, three Arabs out of four answer they are globally “optimistic” (74%), among whom 29% answer they are “very optimistic”. In Algeria and Morocco, they are 75%, 79% in Tunisia and Lebanon, but only 56% in Egypt.

In Europe, where 62% answered they were “optimistic”. When we take a closer look at the figures, we notice that in Germany and in France, the amount of optimistic respondents (respectively 63% and 61%) is closer to that from Egypt. On the opposite, 70% of young Swiss answered they were optimistic, a figure closer to the trend seen in Algeria (75%).

 

Compared to your parents’ lives, how will your future be?

In the same vein, 66% of young Arabs answered that “compared to their parents’ lives, they feel that their future is going to be generally better”, as opposed to 18% who think it will rather be “similar” and 16% who think it will be “generally worse”.

The figures are about the same for Maghreb countries. Egypt is a bit different in this matter, with 26% of respondents who answer that compared to their parents’ lives, their future will be “generally worse” – this means more than one respondent out of four.  In Lebanon, merely 58% answer it will be “generally better” and still 20% to say “generally worse”.

On this point, young Europeans are clearly less enthusiastic. Only one third answer “generally better” (33%), another third “generally worse” (35%) and a last third “similar” (32%). Are young Europeans aware that Europe’s golden age is over? In France, 53% of the respondents answer that their life will be “generally worse” than their parents’, opposed to 23% who think it will be “generally better”. It’s from far the most pessimistic country in Europe. In Great Britain, 47% see their future “generally worse” than the lives their parents’ had. Germany is more moderate: 36% see their future “generally better” than their parents’ lives, 38% “similar” and 26% “generally worse”.

How will your children’s future be?

We notice the same optimism in young Arabs when they project themselves in the future. To the question “compared to your life, you feel like your children’s future is going to be…”, 70% answer “generally better”, 15% “similar” and 15% “generally worse”.

To be more precise, 71% answer “generally better” in Algeria (17% answered “similar” and 12% “generally worse”), and in Morocco, the data shows that 73% answer “generally better”, 13% “similar” and 13% “generally worse”.  We can notice the same trend in Tunisia (73% / 11% / 16%).

Once again, Maghreb differs form the Middle East. In Egypt, only 53% think that their children’s future will be “generally better”, 13% “similar” and 35% “generally worse” (one young Egyptian out of three). The trend is the same in Lebanon, in Palestine and in Jordan.

 

Which issues scare you the most?

Awareness facing ecological issues is sharp in Europe (and is the continent’s youth’s major concern) and can explain respondents’ high level of pessimism about their children’s future. In Jordan and in Palestine, we can interpret this pessimism also caused by the risks of “war” and “terrorism”, which they rank as one of the things that scare them the most. On the opposite, one of the issues that scare young Egyptians the most is “the future” (37%), very simply.

Does your country give you the chance to show what you’re capable of?

However, we have to keep from drawing a simplistic portrait of Maghreb. To the question “does your country’s society give you the chance to show what you’re really capable of?”, 84% answer “no” in Algeria, 87% in Morocco and 88% in Tunisia. Figures that we also notice in the Middle-East (90% in Egypt, 86% in Palestine, 80% in Jordan, and 74% in Lebanon). In this matter, they are close to the youth of Spain (74%), Italy (80%) and France (73%). In Europe, a very clear gap opposes the southern countries to the northern ones (which mainly answer “yes”).

In the upcoming trend notes, we will come back to the debate on this feeling of living in a society that doesn’t trust its youth.