UAE, China Most Popular Emerging Markets for Millennials Seeking to Advance Career

13 Nov 2016

Oliver Cann, Head of Media Content, Public Engagement, Tel.: +41 79 799 3405; Email:

  • Global World Economic Forum survey confirms United Arab Emirate’s status as a top preferred emerging market for young people looking for a career abroad
  • MENA youth also most enthusiastic about starting up their own companies, working as independents
  • Regional results are presented today in Dubai during the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils
  • For more results, read below or visit

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 13 November 2016 – For the second year in a row, the United Arab Emirates and China are the most preferred emerging-market countries among young people who would like to live abroad to advance their careers, a World Economic Forum survey shows. In the survey, released today in Dubai, the two ranked as the most preferred emerging market countries − in 11th and 12th place, respectively − ahead of the Scandinavian countries, all other BRICS countries and Singapore. The US, UK and Canada led the list.

The survey, organized by the Global Shapers team of the World Economic Forum, asked some 20,000 millennials aged 18-35 about a wide range of issues concerning business, the economy, politics, technology and values. Respondents from 187 countries and territories took part in the survey, with most coming from China, the United States and India.

“The UAE’s appeal lies in the enviable fact that the country is increasingly synonymous with an attitude that nothing is impossible,” said Adeyemi Babington-Ashaye, Head of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum. “The UAE combines excellent opportunities for young people and start-ups with a competitive economy and sends a clear signal that, if you want to build the future, come and build it in the UAE.”

One reason for the strong performance of the United Arab Emirates may be the good prospects for landing a job in the country. While 34% of millennials globally identified the lack of economic opportunity and employment as one of the three most serious issues affecting their country – making it the biggest issue of concern after corruption –only one in 10 of the UAE respondents said they see unemployment as a serious issue

Another reason that explains the success of the UAE may be that, globally, more millennials value salary (54%) and career advancement (46%) – criteria for which the UAE job market is typically well regarded – over a sense of purpose and impact on society (37%) in their job. A sense of purpose prevails as the top priority among “Western” millennials from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France. But, in the largest emerging economies, including China and India, salary and career advancement remain the most important job criteria. The same is true in the UAE.

As a whole, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) respondents were among the most optimistic about the future impact of technology on jobs, another factor which may explain the attractiveness of countries in the region, including the UAE. Ninety per cent of MENA respondents said they believe that technology is more likely to create than destroy jobs in the future. Only in China (96%) and the wider East Asia and Pacific region (93%) do more millennials believe that technology will create jobs in the future.

Moreover, young people in the MENA region said they see the presence of a start-up ecosystem and entrepreneurship (50%) as “most important” for youth empowerment – making it more important than any other factor. A fair and just system (36%) came in second; and free (social) media (33%) third. Transparency in governance (27%) and opportunities in politics (25%), topics that surfaced in the region during the Arab Spring, fell off the podium.

On the flip side, young people in MENA are the least enthusiastic among youth globally about a career in the public sector. Twice as many respondents said they see a job in public service to be very unattractive (25%) as those who see it as very attractive (10%). The only region with comparable results was sub-Saharan Africa. In East Asia (mostly China), a majority of respondents said they see the service sector as attractive (56%). In South Asia (including India), the figure was 50%; in North America (including the US) 41%; in Europe 39%; and in MENA only 34%.

MENA is also the region where most youth prefer to be independent workers or entrepreneurs: more than one-third of MENA youth (37%) said they would rather work for themselves. In all other regions, that number is closer to one-quarter or even one-fifth. In countries like India and China, youth prefer to work for a multinational company.

The full results of the survey can be found here:

A breakdown of results per region, country and survey question can be found here:

The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2016, taking place in Dubai on 13-14 November, brings together the thought leaders of the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Future Councils. Comprised of 35 groups of experts from academia, business, civil society, international organizations and government, the councils will originate ideas and solutions that influence future global, regional and industry agendas and help shape the thinking for the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in January.

The Co-Chair of the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils 2016 is Mohammad Al Gergawi,

Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future of the United Arab Emirates.

Notes to Editors

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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