VICE Media Group has published the first edition of The State of Arab Youth, its exclusive research and survey on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s biggest demographic.
Building on VICE Media group’s previous global report The State of Youth, The State of Arab Youth provides insights into the current mindsets, aspirations and behaviors of youth in MENA, bringing new learnings and insights into the cultural shifts taking place in this rapidly growing region.
The themes presented in the survey are informed by in-depth interviews with VICE Media Group creatives, editors and strategists in MENA and around the globe, and driven by a global online survey conducted among 2,134 young people of age 16 to 41 in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The key insights from The State of Arab Youth can be categorised into four main pillars: the concept of Arab youth identity is evolving; the community is broadcasting new cultures through expression; advancements in culture are being fueled by digital connectivity; and unmatched ambition is opening up new worlds.
According to the survey, 52 per cent of youth in the MENA region pointed to personality as the main driver of their identity, while 49 per cent attributed it to family and 47 per cent cited education. These three empowering foundations of identity were found to be stronger in the region than traditional markers of identity, such as age and gender.
Success for Arab youth was found to be determined by a mix of internal fulfillment and career gains. Nearly half of young people in MENA defined success as “when I feel happy / content,” while 45 per cent said success was all about “achieving a good work life balance”. They also seemed to nurture more positive perceptions compared to their global peers, especially among Gen Z. Half of Arab Gen Zers are optimistic about their country, which is 25 percentage points higher than the global average.
The survey found that as the concept of identity becomes more important to the region, young people are remaking culture through avenues of expression, such as creating a new fashion heritage and deploying beauty as an avenue for showcasing creativity. More than 52 per cent of young people in the Middle East use fashion to celebrate their cultural heritage, which is 19 percentage points higher than the global average.
Moreover, as social restrictions across the region give way to more relaxed norms, the survey found that 55 per cent of young people in MENA use beauty/grooming products to showcase their creativity. Online gaming also doubles up as a safe space for experimentation, with one in three young MENA gamers approaching it as a form of self-expression.
According to the survey, this new social matrix is being supported by a high penetration of smartphones and internet usage, leading to an unparalleled sense of connectivity. Two of three young people in MENA feel connected to people their own age online, which is 16 percentage points higher than the global average. This connectivity is fueling major change in how Arab youth interact with passion points such as fashion, beauty, and tech/gaming. Around 54 per cent of Arab youth in MENA say their style is heavily influenced by what they see on social media, while 61 per cent of them are willing to pay more for better quality beauty/grooming products.
Financial health in the Middle East is also outpacing the rest of the world – one in two young people in the region described their financial health as “Excellent” or “Good,” which is 14 percentage points higher than the global average. As Arab youth increasingly focus on achieving success and self-sufficiency, one out of three are investing in crypto or NFTs, and one in four said they are “completely comfortable” with managing their finances, which is 10 percentage points above the global average.