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Youth employment key to Middle East stability

DUBAI: April 12, 2016. Men and women aged 18-24 from 16 countries in the Middle East say the lack of jobs is the No.1 reason why Daesh/ISIS targets their demographic, even though 76 percent don’t think the terrorist group will be successful in establishing an ‘Islamic State’ in the region.

Arab surveyAccording to the eighth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, ISIS remains the single biggest challenge facing the Middle East with 13 percent of respondents now saying they could support the organization, down from 19 percent in 2015.

Only 44 percent of those surveyed think there are good job opportunities available to them – particularly in countries where ISIS has actively recruited young people.

Commenting on the latest survey results Sunil John, founder and chief executive of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller observed: “The stark reality is that fewer than half of all Arab youth believe they have decent prospects in the jobs market. The International Labour Organisation believes up to 75 million young people alone are jobless in the Arab world. This depressing statistic, and the corresponding pessimism felt by so many responders to our survey, is a damning indictment of the governments that have failed to address this key issue.”

John said the 200 million young people in the Middle East and North Africa represent either the region’s biggest dividend, or
its biggest threat: “It is my personal view that they are a dividend; a wellspring of untapped potential to rival any oil or gas field, and a net benefit to the region and the world. The governments of the Middle East and North Africa cannot afford to let them down,” he added.

According to the survey, Arab youth view Saudi Arabia as their biggest ally for the fifth-year running (31 percent), followed by the UAE (28 percent) and the U.S. (25 percent). However while two-thirds of respondents view America as a friend, one third see it as an enemy - particularly in Iraq (93 percent), Yemen (82 percent) and Palestine (81 percent).

Iran is viewed by 13 percent of the youth as their biggest ally while 52 percent see it as an enemy; 53 percent think promoting stability in the region is more important than promoting democracy (28 percent); and 52 percent think religion plays too big of a role in the Middle East with 47 percent saying Sunni-Shia relations have worsened in the past five years.

On a positive note, 22 percent of the respondents say the UAE is the best place to live and 25 percent think it’s the best place to start a business.

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