Arab policies 'must focus on generational diversity'
Dubai, October 23, 2013
With the Arab region’s different generations becoming increasingly distinct, governments and business leaders must tailor their policies to meet these groups’ varying objectives if they are to craft economic reforms and make their countries more competitive, said a report.
The new research entitled “Generations A: Differences and Similarities across the Arab Generations” by management consulting firm Booz & Company was released at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Media Summit currently underway.
The study, in the form of focus group and an online survey, included nearly 3,000 Arabs in six countries (Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE) and aimed at gauging their views on a number of critical topics.
Additionally, data from 649 respondents was collected in five other countries: Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, and Syria.
It focused specifically on age, to recognise the different generations have very different perceptions due to the socioeconomic events that they experienced directly and the historical events that have shaped them.
It divided the region’s workforce into three main generations, and aimed at identifying the bridges across generations and defining new ones where they are missing.
“A generational perspective is the missing variable,” said Richard Shediac, a senior Partner with Booz & Company.
“Regional governments and business leaders need to take these generational differences into consideration when crafting social and economic policies. If they are to meet the needs of a broad range of groups, policymakers must understand the diverse perceptions and priorities of the region’s generations.”
The three age cohorts include the Arab National Generation (ANG) made up of those born between 1948 and 1964 (ages 49 to 65), the era which was shaped by the rise of Pan Arabism; the Arab Regional Generation (ARG), made up of those born between 1965 and 1977 (ages 36 to 48), who grew up during the expansion of oil wealth in some countries, especially in the 1970s and 1980s; and the Arab Digital Generation (ADG), born from 1978 onward, with the research including those only aged 15 to 35,this age cohort experienced the onset of digital technology, along with economic globalisation.
The results were grouped into four broad categories - values and generational characteristics; national outlook, civic engagement, and citizenship; the world of work; and technology, media, and consumerism.
While ‘generosity’ and ‘hospitality’ are shared values across all the cohorts, they seem to be declining over time – possibly a reflection that in many countries the ADG is facing hardships with high unemployment among youth, a high cost of living, and reduced economic opportunities.
In a more competitive economic environment and times of political unrest, it is possible that these people have more pressing concerns than being generous or hospitable, said the report.
In terms of the level of satisfaction with life achievements thus far, including career and education, the least satisfied were members of the ADG, particularly in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, while satisfaction levels were highest among the ANG, especially in the GCC.
Unemployment levels for young Arabs are high, above 25 per cent in many countries. Many young people do not believe in the quality of their education, and housing is disproportionately expensive compared to other regions, effectively restricting nearly two-thirds of ADG respondents to living with their parents until they are older.
When asked about values that they do not associate with their generation, all three groups cited ‘individuality.’ Regarding differences, the ADG associated itself more with ‘adventure’ and ‘extravagance’ than the older two generations, which associated itself with ‘achievement.’
The survey found a positive sign that Arabs are likely to believe that their country is a leader in the Arab region in general terms.
Considering more specific aspects, however, they were less likely to believe that their country led in terms of technology or education. ADG respondents, in particular, were less likely to agree that their country has a leadership position, perhaps reflecting their current diminished economic prospects, it said.
THE WORLD OF WORK
Labour trends and characteristics offered insights to address the region’s labour force challenges, including unemployment, low productivity and employee engagement, and large public sectors.
The public sector in the Mena region still attracts young graduates with high salaries, employment protection, and a special social status, in particular in state-owned enterprises, said the survey.
The private sector, however, is increasingly expected to create the jobs that will lower the high unemployment rates among nationals, and moreover is supposed to retain these young employees.
“One implication of our findings,” said Ramez Shehadi, a partner with Booz & Company, “is that technology-oriented enterprises require the qualities exhibited by the ADG, particularly innovative thinking. As these businesses grow in relative terms and as a percentage of GDP in the region, these qualities should be cultivated”.
Gender equality in the workplace was a key area of inquiry. The survey found that older generations are more likely to believe that women currently enjoy equal work opportunities with men, while only 45 per cent of women in the ADG agree.
TECHNOLOGY, MEDIA, AND CONSUMERISM
The survey showed clear differences among the generations regarding their use of digital technology to consume information and make purchases.
It found a gap in technology usage, which is however, narrowing with the development of electronic government services.
All three Arab generations have adopted social networks extensively, with a significant rise in social media applications and networks. Outside social purposes, different generations are extending their use of networks in a varied manner, it said.
“Our results also confirm that traditional mass media advertising channels, with the exception of TV, are becoming less effective in reach¬ing certain generations when compared to the proportionate spending on these platforms,” said Jayant Bhargava, a principal with Booz & Company.
With regard to consumerism, it found that more than two-third of respondents across all generations regularly use social networks to seek recommendations to guide buying decisions. It has directed marketers to take advantage of this shift and integrate social media into their overall marketing plan. - TradeArabia News Service