A new study shows that given the chance one out of every three youth in Arab countries in the Middle East would leave the region.
A new Gallup poll has found that nearly one third of youth in the Middle East and North Africa would emigrate if they where given the opportunity. The percentage is higher among those with an academic degree.
According to the poll, “31 percent of respondents who already work full time compared with 17 percent who are not in the workforce say they would like to leave their country permanently, if they had the opportunity.
The study, commissioned by the Silatach Index, polled some 16,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 29 in 20 countries across the Arab world last year. It’s most remarkable finding, which confounded current conventions, revealed that the employed and educated were more likely to want to emigrate than the unemployed.
“These results suggest it may be unfulfilled ambition or lack of perceived opportunity rather than strict unemployment that prompts some young people to leave their homelands, the study said.
According to the report, youth between the ages of 15 and 29 represent about a third of the total population in the region and make up a significant labor supply.
“¬This ‘youth bulge’ remains one of the greatest challenges for all stakeholders, from national and local governments to private businesses and civil society. Such a demographic challenge has many implications for national economies, migration, and ‘brain drain’ issues, the report said.
One of the key findings of the report points to the fact the “a country’s greatest assets are also it’s most mobile. The ¬most likely individuals to express a desire to migrate permanently are those who are the most educated, are already employed, and aspire to start their own businesses, the report said.
In Lebanon, the report found over 70 percent said their country was a good place for entrepreneurs. But Professor Marwan Stambuli, a Lebanese management consultant, told The Media Line he believes over half would emigrate if given the possibility,
“In my opinion this figure varies from one Middle Eastern Country to another.
Lebanon for example more than 55 percent will leave given the opportunity, Stambuli said.
“The criteria of immigrating are the opportunity to find work and political stability, Stambuli added.
However, many of those who leave Lebanon to work in the Gulf region or in the West have remained in close ties with the country and during the summer time many of them return either for vacation or to look for investment possibilities.
Regarding the Palestinian Territories, the poll found a more optimistic view by youth. It said that some 50 percent of youth were satisfied with their freedom to choose what they do in life. It noted that younger Palestinians were “generally less pessimistic than older Palestinians about their own economic status and opportunities, and they have a brighter perspective on their personal lives.
Nabil Shaath, a senior minister with the Palestinian Authority and former peace negotiator, confirmed this view point.
“The brain drain is always serious and always costly, but it’s not very much in this country, Shaath told The Media Line. “There’s really – if you look at our emigration statistics in the last five years, which were difficult years, very little – very little net outflow.
“I understand that the many people who emigrated are willing to really come back: permanently or to make businesses and go back again, which is fine with us, Shaath said, adding that those who do leave make a practice of remaining in contact with their native countries.
“There are a few medical doctors who come every year, who spend their vacation giving voluntary, free operations to people who need them. So that link makes it easy to accept even a trickle brain-drain, Shaath said.