Youth Study

Coping with Uncertainty: Young People in the Middle East and North Africa

In 2016/2017, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung conducted a large-scale representative survey of youths and young adults in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Encompassing around 9,000 young people between 16 and 30 from Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia, the results offer fascinating insights into their attitudes to life, self-image and perceptions of the future.

The survey results reveal the uncertainties confronting young people from the region in many realms. However, faced with these imperatives, young people find ways to cope with difficult circumstances and discover their own solutions to make headway. Many of them look to the future with confidence, despite major economic upheavals and scant scope for political participation, as well as violence, war, poverty and hunger in some countries.

Young People in the MENA Region

In the wake of the Arab Spring, political and societal transformation processes emerged in many countries in the region, at times taking very different forms, and with consequences that remain difficult to predict. Politically and economically marginalized, young people, who are not taken seriously by political decision-makers, played a central role in these developments.

In many places across the MENA region, young people continue to demand equal access to politics and equal scope to participate in society. In the public sphere, they do not merely seek to ensure their interests are taken seriously, but are also prepared to shoulder responsibility for themselves and for society. However, they repeatedly encounter obstacles and resistance when asserting these demands.

The above-average proportion of young people in societies across the MENA region makes it vital to integrate young people politically and economically, and to develop more inclusive societal models in order to achieve or maintain stability in these societies. The impact of interactions between political and economic uncertainty makes integrating young people more difficult in many countries in the region. In many places, it has proved impossible to fully implement the desired societal changes.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung views young people as a decisive factor for democratic development in the region and is keen to strengthen their potential to initiate change in the world of politics and across society. Based on the results presented here, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung seeks to foster engagement with young people’s situation in the MENA region.

1. Young people want security, a good standard of living and good family relationships

2. Religiosity is increasing, but is practiced above all on an individual level

3. The family is the most important source of security and point of reference

4. Young people face enormous economic problems and scant scope for upward mobility

5. Less than ten percent of the young people surveyed want to emigrate

6. Communication media are used above all for private purposes

7. Youths and young adults distance themselves from politics

8. Many young people are prepared to engage with social and societal issues

9. Active involvement with social issues largely occurs outside institutions

10. Nevertheless: most young people are confident about the future

The results of the study can also be downloaded here.

Survey Data

The data collected on assignment by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and in collaboration of Kantar Public (previously TNS Infratest Politikforschung) and the University Leipzig can be found in separate PDF-Files for each country:

Questionnaire, MENA Regional overview, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syrian Refugees, Tunisia 

Country Studies






Dr. Friederike Stolleis

Department of the Middle East and North Africa


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