Revealed: Why younger Emiratis are optimistic about their future

New survey shows that a big majority of younger Emiratis believe the UAE’s best days are yet to come

An overwhelming majority of Emirati youth are optimistic that the UAE’s best days are still ahead, according to a new survey.

The poll, commissioned by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations (MBZMFG) to explore the views of Emirati youth on the future, showed that 91 percent of respondents believe the best is yet to come for the UAE.

It also revealed that 78 percent expect to have a better life than their parents did, while only 3 percent expect to be worse off.

Young Emirati women are particularly optimistic about their lives, with 83 percent expressing confidence of having a better life than their parents.

The survey showed that for Emirati youth their personal success is seen as being closely interlinked with the success of their nation.

Nearly one-third (28 percent) said that contributing to the UAE’s well-being and prosperity is the most important goal for them, more so than creating a stable and happy family (23 percent) or pursuing a successful career (15 percent).

Furthermore, 90 percent of the Emiratis currently studying abroad said they plan to return home to start their professional career.

The survey was conducted in two phases by PSB Insights, a global research and analytics consultancy, in October and November, covering 2,974 young Emirati students – 2,629 in the UAE and 345 pursuing degrees abroad.

Another of the key findings revealed that 74 percent of young Emiratis expect the world to go through significant changes over the next 50 years, with a majority (56 percent) saying the changes will leave the world better off than it is today.

Among those expecting positive global changes, technological innovations and advancements, space exploration, renewable energy, and scientific progress are seen as the biggest drivers of change over the next 50 years.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Nuaimi, director of the Education Affairs Office at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, said: “The findings of the study, highlighting the confidence of Emirati youth in the future of the nation, reflect the positivity and clearly-articulated vision of our leadership.

“With a focus on nurturing youth talent and enabling them to realise their full potential, the UAE has outlined a strategic course of action to provide world-class higher education to youth and prepare them for the jobs of the future. Alongside, there is a strong emphasis on building a local innovation ecosystem and boosting entrepreneurial abilities. All these lay the foundation for building the next 50 years as we march towards the Centennial 2071 goal to be the best nation in the world.”

According to the survey, nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) of Emirati university students said they are satisfied with the quality of higher education they are receiving while 91 percent are also confident they will be able to achieve their professional goals.

On the impact of Covid-19 on higher education, nearly half (45 percent) said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their higher education experience.

With Covid-19 putting mental health in the spotlight, the study also examined stress factors impacting youth.

While a strong majority (75 percent) of young Emiratis described their mental health and wellbeing as excellent or good, one in four (25 percent) said their mental health is not good or poor. Nearly half (44 percent) said the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing, with the number rising to 66 percent among those who describe their current mental health as not good or poor.

When asked about the main causes of stress in their daily lives, the top three factors were also educational pressures (78 percent) and uncertainty about future employment (50 percent).

According to the poll, nearly three in four (74 percent) of Emirati youth said that preserving the Emirati culture, values and traditions should be a top priority for the UAE over the next decade with 71 percent wanting the UAE to make the preservation of the Arabic language a top priority.

Emirati youth also said they fully embrace the role of technology as a driver of positive change with 81 percent saying technology is a force for good and positive progress and 74 percent believing that investing in technology should be a top priority for the UAE over the next decade.

Renewable energy is seen by the UAE’s youth as one of the top industries to pursue a career in and is also seen as a major driver of positive change.

Nearly two in three said they would be interested in pursuing a career in renewable energy, surpassed only by the interest in the technology industry (66 percent), and preferred more than careers in healthcare, aviation (52 percent each), education (50 percent) or oil and gas (47 percent).