DUBAI — Despite major concerns about job prospects and personal debt, members of the Arab Spring generation still believe they have a bright future ahead — although they may have to leave home to find it, according to new research from ASADA’A BCW.

The agency’s latest Arab Youth Study, based on interviews with 3,400 individuals aged 18-24, found young Arabs across the Middle East and North Africa are troubled by low-quality education (87%), a lack of jobs (49%) and rising costs (35%).

In turn, the survey found an increasing number of youths favoring government jobs (39%) and working for themselves or their families (28%) over the private sector (20%) and nonprofits (11%).

The research also shows 35% of youths believe the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East is the rise of the cost of living, while 32% believe the biggest obstacle is unemployment. When asked about the levels of difficulty in finding a job in their country, 49% said it would be difficult, 13% said it would be easy and 38% determined it would be neither easy nor difficult.

All of which has young Arabs considering making major changes in search of better prospects.

The findings determined that 57% of young Arabs would like to live in the UAE, up from 33% in 2012. Additionally, 37% would like their country to emulate the UAE, 22% would like to emulate the US, 18% Canada, 14% Germany and 11% would like to emulate for both France and Turkey.

The qualities that make the UAE so enticing for young Arabs include its growing economy (27%), safety and security (26%) and generous salary packages and wide range of work opportunities (22%). Lastly, 17% are attracted to what they see as UAE’s effective and visionary leadership.

The survey also found that while respondents want to maintain their identity, they also are angling for reform, particularly when it comes to religion. Some 41% of respondents said religion is the most important factor in their personal identity, versus nationality (18%) and family/tribe (17%). Meantime, 73% of young Arabs view religion as playing too big a role in the region. When asked if preserving religion and cultural identity or creating a more tolerant liberal and globalized society was important for them, 65% agreed that the preservation of their religious and cultural identity is more important.

“Today unsurprisingly they [Arab youth] find themselves at a crossroads,” said Sunil John president, MENA BCW & founder of ASDA’A “BCW They want to hold onto their identity while at the same time adopt change.”

A majority, or 67%, of respondents said their voice matter to their leadership. At the same time, 48% feel their government has the right policies to address the issues most important to young people and 52% do not.

When questioned about equal rights between women and men overall, 59% say women and men have equal rights with women, and 29% are keen on women having more rights than men with women. Finally, 11% believe men have more rights than women with women at 8% and men at 13%.

An overwhelming majority, 82%, of the Arab Spring generation believes that promoting stability is more important than democracy.

All of which was gleaned from face-to-face interviews with participants, which were conducted May 13-June 16 in 50 cities of 17 Arab states including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Levant includes Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen. North Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia.