Youth in the Arab World - Describing the Lebanese Youth - A National and Psycho-Social Survey

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Arab populations are surprisingly young, with over 30% of the population (or 100 million) in the 15-29 age group, leading many1 analysts to refer to an Arab population “youth bulge” (Khalifa, 2009). The 15 to 24 age group, which represents the transition from childhood to adulthood in most societies, has escalated from 33.7 million in 1980, to 67.9 million (or 20.9%) in 2005. The youth population is expected to increase to 73 million by 2015 (Khalifa, 2009; ESCWA, 2009). Arab youth are more educated and marrying at a later age than before, but the Arab region still suffers from one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world (over 60 million), with only 62.2% of the region’s population of 15 and over able to read and write (Hammoud, 2005). Furthermore, Youth unemployment rates are also the highest in the world, ranging between 20 and 40% as compared to worldwide averages of 10-20% (ESCWA, 2009). Some organisations estimate that one in every three young Arabs is currently without a job. Arab policy makers are acutely aware of the population youth bulge, and the tremendous challenges these demographics entail. The large number of youth entering the workforce will remain on the increase until at least 2020, with some estimates pointing to the necessity of creating 5 million new jobs every year to absorb this young working force. These workforce related challenges are complicated by a dearth of information in the socio-political domain: we know very little about what Arab youth believe in, their value preferences, the identities they endorse, what groups they affiliate with, their socio-cultural orientations, etc. The 18-25 age group is a sensitive and high value sub-population: it represents a population stratum that has crossed the turbulent adolescent years, and is now witnessing a crystallization of both identities and value structures. These formative years shape the growing individual into the socially active adult that will be playing a central role in public affairs soon after. Considering the many challenges that Arab polity face, it becomes necessary and urgent to investigate the Arab youth’ identity and values profile to have a better understanding of current Arab populations, states, and their likely future. The present study aims to provide the first nationally representative survey of Lebanese youth on a series of key domains: socio-demographic, socio-cultural, and social-psychological. Specifically, it addresses the following questions: - Socio-demographic: how well educated are the youth? What’s the average household income? What are the unemployment rates? - Socio-cultural: what are the youth media preference (Western vs. Arabic), what languages do they speak and write, what is the internet penetration in this age group, and what are their attitudes towards emigration? - Social psychological: three sets of social-psychological variables are explored 1) Assessment of inter-sectarian relations 2) exploration of value orientation and 3) exploration of identity hierarchies.


Charles Harb

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