Generational differences must inform Arab world's policies, says Booz & Co [CPI Financial]
(CPI Financial Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) With the Arab region's different generations becoming increasingly distinct, governments and business leaders must tailor their policies to meet these groups' varying objectives if they are to craft economic reforms and make their countries more competitive.
The Arab region has undergone significant changes in recent decades. And, these events have not affected all age groups uniformly. As a result, the different Arab generations are increasingly distinct, each with their own perceptions, needs, and priorities. As governments and business leaders seek to ensure economic growth, they must cater to each of these Arab generation's specific needs. This starts by understanding the generations themselves – their similarities and differences, and how they view the world. In line with this, management consulting firm Booz & Company has surveyed nearly 3,000 Arabs in six countries, to gauge their views on a number of critical topics. The analysis revealed that, in terms of their working styles and their use of technology the Arab generations are quite distinct; this, in turn, means that these differences must be taken into account by governments or companies looking to shape national polices or build a stronger workforce. This new research entitled Generations A: Differences and Similarities across the Arab Generations was launched at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Media Summit.
Age matters: different generations, different perspectives
The report – which focuses specifically on age – is about better understanding the key generations within the Arab region. More specifically, it is about recognising that these generations have very different perceptions thanks to the socioeconomic events that they experienced most directly and the historical events that have shaped them. This study also coincides with a time when the region's workforce is made up three main generations; it aims to identify the bridges across generations and define new ones where they are missing.
"A generational perspective is the missing variable," said Richard Shediac, a Senior Partner with Booz & Company. "Regional governments and business leaders need to take these generational differences into consideration when crafting social and economic policies. If they are to meet the needs of a broad range of groups, policymakers must understand the diverse perceptions and priorities of the region's generations."
As Arab region leaders formulate social and economic reforms to promote sustainable and inclusive growth, and make the region more competitive within the global economy, they must develop policies that accommodate and leverage the unique characteristics of different demographic groups. Before they can begin to tailor their policies in this fashion, they must understand the characteristics of the Arab region's generations.
To understand the generational differences within the MENA region, Booz & Company took the 15-year-old to 65-year-old working-age population and divided it into three age cohorts:
Arab National Generation (ANG): This demographic cohort was born between 1948 and 1964 (ages 49 to 65). The key socioeconomic event that shaped this era was the rise of Pan Arabism.
Arab Regional Generation (ARG): Born between 1965 and 1977 (ages 36 to 48), this group grew up during the expansion of oil wealth in some countries, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Arab Digital Generation (ADG): Born from 1978 onward, with the research including those only those ages 15 to 35, this age cohort experienced the onset of digital technology, along with economic globalization.
Booz & Company therefore commissioned focus groups and an online survey of nearly 3,000 participants in six Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, supplementary data from 649 respondents was collected in five other countries: Algeria (170), Lebanon (148), Libya (73), Morocco (163), and Syria (95). In some areas – such as values, political views and citizenship, and core values – the survey responses from different generations are aligned on several topics. However, in others – such as technology and work – the differences are stark.
Booz & Company grouped the results into four broad categories, which are each discussed in subsequent sections: values and generational characteristics; national outlook, civic engagement, and citizenship; the world of work; and technology, media, and consumerism.
Values and generational characteristics
In general, the results show that all three Arab generations are more united than divided in their core values.
Yet while "generosity" and "hospitality" are shared values across all three generations, they seem to be declining over time – possibly a reflection that in many countries the ADG is facing hardships with high unemployment among youth, a high cost of living, and reduced economic opportunities. In a more competitive economic environment and times of political unrest, it is possible that these people have more pressing concerns than being generous or hospitable.
When asked about their level of satisfaction with life achievements thus far, including career and education, the least satisfied were members of the ADG, particularly in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. By contrast, satisfaction levels were highest among the ANG, especially in the GCC.
Unemployment levels for young Arabs are high – above 25 percent in many countries. Many young people do not believe in the quality of their education, and housing is disproportionately expensive compared to other regions, effectively restricting them to living with their parents until they are older. Demographic data from this survey shows that nearly two-thirds of ADG respondents across all countries live with their parents in large households.
When asked about values that they do not associate with their generation, all three groups cited "individuality".
Regarding differences, the ADG associates itself more with "adventure" and "extravagance" than the older two generations. The ANG associates itself with "achievement," possibly indicating that these people were more driven and ambitious in what they wanted to do, and have reached a point in life where they can look back on their accomplishments.
National outlook, civic engagement and citizenship
Regarding perceptions of their country and its place in the world, the results again indicate greater commonalities than differences. A positive sign is that Arabs are likely to believe their country is a leader in the Arab region in general terms.
Considering more specific aspects, however, they are less likely to believe that their country leads in terms of technology or education. This trend is more pronounced for younger respondents – members of the ADG were less likely to agree than ARG or ANG respondents that their country has a leadership position, perhaps reflecting their current diminished economic prospects.
The world of work
A generational lens applied to labor trends and characteristics offers many insights to address the region's labor force challenges, including unemployment, low productivity and employee engagement, and large public sectors.
The public sector in the MENA region still acts as a magnet for young graduates attracted by high salaries, employment protection, and a special social status, in particular in state-owned enterprises. In the context of diminishing public budgets, these policies are not sustainable. The private sector is increasingly expected to create the jobs that will lower the high unemployment rates among nationals, and moreover is supposed to retain these young employees.
The survey and focus group findings regarding generational differences in the work environment are intriguing. In some areas they show friction and a lack of understanding across generations of their different work styles.
"One implication of our findings," said Ramez Shehadi, a Partner with Booz & Company, "is that technology-oriented enterprises require the qualities exhibited by the ADG, particularly innovative thinking. As these businesses grow in relative terms and as a percentage of GDP in the region, these qualities should be cultivated."
Most of the attributes associated with the older generation are positive: they are seen as punctual, leading by example, respectful, willing to teach, and appreciative. Significantly, the main attributes of the different groups do not overlap at all. Such differences could be a source of competitive advantage, in that diverse age groups bring complementary strengths to companies.
Gender equality in the workplace was a key area of inquiry. In general, the older generations are more likely to believe that women currently enjoy equal work opportunities with men. With some regional variations, approximately half of all ARG and ANG respondents believe this is true. However, the ADG are less likely to agree, and this disparity is more pronounced among women in the ADG. Only 45 percent of that group believe that women have the same opportunities to work as men. One potential explanation for these findings is that younger people in the MENA region have higher expectations. Many countries have made strides toward gender equality in the workplace, and while older workers may feel that those measures represent significant progress, younger people believe that it is not enough.
More than 50 percent of all respondents, across all three generations, support women seeking employment, provided there are rules and regulations in place to respect the country's traditions and culture. Notably, the majority of these respondents are least aware of the positive impact of such measures on the overall economy. This is a potential opportunity to educate citizens, as there is convincing evidence that adding women to the workforce can spur economic growth.
The survey results show clear differences among the generations regarding their use of digital technology to consume information and make purchases. These findings break down into three areas, technology, media, and consumerism.
"Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are sizable differences in how the generations use technology," said Shehadi. "The gap in technology usage is, however, narrowing, with profound implications for governments. As their citizens becoming more technologically literate and connected, it is vital that they develop electronic government services as part of a broader national technological development and for their own sake."
In addition to being connected through the Internet, the three Arab generations have adopted social networks extensively. With a cohort of young adults who are both multilingual and technology-savvy, the region has seen a significant rise in social media applications and networks. Outside social purposes, different generations are extending their use of networks in a varied manner. Media and consumerism are emerging as topics of such differentiation. .
"Our results also confirm that traditional mass media advertising channels, with the exception of TV, are becoming less effective in reaching certain generations when compared to the proportionate spending on these platforms," said Jayant Bhargava, a Principal with Booz & Company. "In particular, advertising on digital platforms needs to increase and better reflect the way that the Arab generations actually consume media."
A core theme of the findings is that social media are growing in relevance regarding purchasing behavior.
"More than two-thirds of respondents across all generations regularly use social networks to seek recommendations to guide buying decisions," explained Shehadi. "However, compared to developed countries, marketers in the region are not yet tapping this trend."
Although social media are rapidly evolving from mere networking platforms to means of influencing purchasing behavior, local companies are missing an opportunity. Taking advantage of this shift will require focused effort in several areas.
"Marketers must develop a formal strategy to integrate social media into their overall marketing plan," said Bhargava. "They also must make investments in social media-driven customer service channels, creative content development that works on social media, and rapid monitoring and customer-engagement response teams. Marketers in developed countries are already building social media teams with roles that include community managers, creative talent, and data analysts who can study consumer behavior for insights."
During a period of significant change in the Arab region, governments must understand that their populations have unique perspectives, attitudes, and perceptions. If governments are to create a stable social and governance platform that can foster economic growth, they must continually monitor generational differences and adapt to ensure they are addressing the individual requirements and priorities of all groups in their citizenry. Similarly, companies must understand the characteristics of these generations to create a stronger workforce and to stimulate value creation through the promotion of e-commerce and digital technologies.
(c) 2013 CPI Financial. All rights reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info an Albawaba.com company
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