The six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are experiencing a unique demographic period in which one-half to one-third of their population is under 25 years of age. This youth bulge presents GCC governments with an opportunity to propel their nations forward: These young people can bring creativity, energy, and productivity to the GCC national and regional economies. With their contributions, the GCC region can accelerate its development and continue building knowledge economies.
But a Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) survey of young people in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates shows that there are challenges to overcome as well. The survey, together with our research and our experience in the region, shows that five areas are critical for public and private stakeholders to address:
- Gender gap
- Leisure activities
- Community engagement
GCC stakeholders are aware of both the opportunities and the challenges in these areas and are making good progress in addressing them. But a more universal, all-encompassing effort is needed to ensure that young people are fully engaged in GCC societies, including governments, private sectors, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civic organizations. The region needs a new paradigm that puts the region’s youth at the forefront of national policies, and involves young people themselves in building their future. Only such a holistic effort will allow the GCC to capitalize on this demographic dividend.