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Delving into the minds and opportunities of Arab youth

LAU researchers join their partners in the SAHWA project to discuss the preliminary results of a survey and ethnographic fieldwork on the prospects of Arab youth.

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Filmed life stories of eight young men and women across the partner countries allow SAHWA to establish a generational discourse in the region.

Thirty researchers and academics from fifteen Arab and European institutions gathered in Beirut this week to discuss the latest progress and findings of the ambitious cross-country project SAHWA. Launched two years ago, the E.U.-funded initiative takes its name from the Arabic word for ‘revival’ and is concerned with the thoughts and prospects of Arab youth.

“Having completed our surveys and fieldwork, we are now preparing to begin the third and final stage of the project,” explained LAU Associate Professor of Economics Walid Marrouch. “Now that each of the country teams has compiled a comprehensive dataset based on uniform surveys, we will analyze the data and produce policy reports,” added Marrouch, who formed the consortium’s Lebanon team along with Ghassan Dibeh, chair of the department of Economics, and Ali Fakih, assistant professor of Economics.

The trio worked with anthropologists to conduct focus group meetings in urban, suburban and rural areas of Lebanon and with an external company to administer a survey of 250 questions to 2,000 Lebanese youths. The same process was applied by teams in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. The various partners will now shift their focus from the country specific to the thematic in order to compile policy papers with the valuable insights gained from the empirical research.

“The main question we’ll be concerned with is how educational systems, in combination with access to labor markets, contribute to social inclusion,” said Fakih to his project partners at the start of a two-day briefing during which each country team gave an overview of their preliminary findings and discussed the themes of their forthcoming reports.

Fakih, together with Marrouch and Dibeh, will be producing various papers that will assess the opportunities available to the youth. “We can already see that while there has been great investment in the tertiary education sector in Lebanon, this has not translated to lower unemployment,” added Fakih during his presentation. The LAU faculty will work with the project partners to review and draw conclusions from the empirical data that looks at countries both individually and comparatively. Other papers of the SAHWA project will include studies on migration, culture, engagement and gender among youth in and across the target countries.

“It took some months for us to develop a common survey that could be implemented in all five countries and yield valuable insights. Now we have a unique set of data that is really interesting,” enthuses Fakih. While the papers will not be published for another year, video-recorded life stories produced as part of the socio-anthropological study are already available to watch on the project website.


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