Mr. Winder is an MBA student at the University of Oxford and an independent Gulf analyst. He previously worked on Iran policy at the U.S. Department of State and was a Fulbright Scholar in Kuwait.
This report analyzes data collected from a survey designed to better understand how young people from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries feel about culture, identity and society. This is a region where the population is young and change has happened at a dramatic pace in recent decades. Many young GCC nationals are well-traveled, tech-savvy and Westernized. They lead lifestyles that are fundamentally different from those of their parents and grandparents and are exposed to ideas that often clash with traditional Gulf values. The generational shifts taking place right now are dramatic.
The Gulf is a very tradition-oriented environment, and an individual’s actions and attitudes are viewed as a reflection of both one’s family and tribe. Reputation matters a great deal in Gulf society; for the younger generation, the pressure to conform can be intense. Individualism can be a tricky proposition, and the stigma around acting in an open-minded fashion can be severe.
One motivation for creating this survey is the limited existing data on how GCC youth feel about topics such as the role of Islam in society, gender relations and family pressure. Some of the questions are sensitive, which is why it was emphasized to potential respondents that responses would be anonymous. While a number of surveys covering societal issues have been conducted in the Middle East, because of the difficulties in accessing the appropriate demographic mix and the sensitivities involved, few of them have focused on the Gulf states. Additionally, while the GCC is often thought of as one culture and people, this survey demonstrates that there are nuances and differences among the GCC countries, driven by factors such as the country’s history, the degree of foreign influence, levels of natural-resource wealth and emphasis on religion.
Survey responses were collected from January to February 2020, with 197 responses recorded in total. The survey was created using Google Forms and distributed via platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email. In order to increase the number of responses, the survey was open to people as old as 38, although the vast majority of respondents were under the age of 32. Below is the demographic breakdown of respondents, based on three mandatory questions at the beginning of the survey:
Age 15-20: 8.1 percent
21-26: 52.3 percent
27-32: 25.4 percent
33-38: 14.2 percent
Gender Female: 55.8 percent
Male: 44.2 percent
Kuwaiti: 35 percent
Emirati: 22.3 percent
Qatari: 15.2 percent
Omani: 9.1 percent
Bahraini: 4.6 percent
The survey consists of 43 questions and statements. Most answers are in the format of either a scale of 1-10 or the Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree). Ten questions leave space for an open-ended, written answer. The numbers in this report are based on average responses by category (nationality, gender, age, nationality-plus-gender, etc.). Because of a lower level of representation, there is less confidence in the Bahraini data. As such, in some cases Bahrain will be omitted from the ranking of responses to a question by nationality (or nationality-plus-gender) due to an outlier effect.
Questions and responses have been divided into four categories: 1) general culture, society and identity; 2) economy, demographics and resources; 3) family and reputation; and 4) gender and relationships.
This section aims to provide context prior to sharing the survey results. One caveat is that, as is the case in any country or culture, there is no one definition or indicator of a conservative or liberal individual. For instance, as the survey results demonstrate, whether a woman covers her hair is not a reliable indicator of her degree of conservatism. Qataris and Emiratis are the two most conservative populations in the Gulf. The countries are small and fairly heterogenous, and both societies are marked by a high degree of religiosity and traditionalism. Although cities such as Doha and Dubai are international hubs with tourist-friendly hotels featuring nightclubs and bars, there is a strong sense that such liberties are meant to be enjoyed by foreigners and not locals. These two countries were also late economic developers; locals have not experienced as many decades of enhanced interaction with the broader world. Survey results confirmed the presumption that Qatari youth are the most conservative in the GCC.
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the poster child for social conservatism and religiosity. While it is true that the country is governed by the orthodox Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam and is famous for its history of banning women from driving (reversed in 2017), it is also a vast nation with a fair degree of demographic diversity. There are many conservative Saudis, but also many liberal ones. While the landlocked capital, Riyadh, and nearby cities such as Buraidah are quite conservative, coastal areas such as Jeddah and the oil-rich Eastern Province are on the whole more liberal and have been relative “melting pots” for centuries.
Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman are all relatively liberal. One manifestation is that socializing between unrelated local men and women is not as taboo there as elsewhere in the Gulf. Furthermore, these populations are not as strongly religious as others in the region and have higher degrees of religious diversity. These societal norms are also a result of earlier development and engagement with foreigners. Oman has a centuries-long history as a trading nation with strong ties to Zanzibar and India. Bahrain was the seat of the British administration in the Gulf, which led to mingling among diverse populations and cross-pollination. Bahrain and Kuwait were the first two Gulf countries to enjoy oil wealth, enabling people to travel abroad more easily and bringing in an influx of foreign workers.
Two unique factors contribute to Kuwait’s politics and history. Kuwaitis enjoy a significant degree of political freedom and are able to express themselves when it comes to matters such as governmental corruption. The country is headed by an emir who is above criticism and can dissolve the parliament at will, but Kuwaitis have the constitutional right to speak their minds on most issues and are able to participate in meaningful parliamentary elections. Kuwaiti attitudes have also been shaped by the unique trauma of the brutal invasion and occupation by Saddam Hussein in 1990-91. Kuwait was fully occupied for a brief period and is still dealing with the psychological issues that period created.
Oman is culturally distinct from the rest of the Gulf. Its ruler is the sultan; its main religious sect is Ibadism, which predates the Sunni-Shia split and only represents a national majority in Oman; and its traditional dress is different from that of the rest of the Gulf. It is often said that Omanis march to the beat of their own drum, and this is on display in everything from the country’s cultural heritage sites to its foreign policy.
Other factors that inform the survey results include what percentage of the population is local, how wealthy the country is, and how much of the economy is driven by natural resources. It is telling that all of the GCC countries rank among the top 10 nations with the highest percentage of international migrants. The UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are the top three. Foreign nationals make up more than 80 percent of the population in Qatar and the UAE, whereas in Oman and Saudi Arabia less than half of the population is foreign. Qatar is the wealthiest per capita in the GCC and perhaps the world, primarily due to its natural-gas sector, followed by the UAE and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia is in the middle of the pack, and Bahrain and Oman are the two poorest Gulf states. Oil and natural gas are the dominant creators of wealth across the region, with the one major exception of the UAE, which has managed to diversify to a relatively high degree. While non-energy sectors account for 40 percent of government revenue in the UAE, they account for only 9 percent in Kuwait, 10 percent in Qatar and 12 percent in Saudi Arabia. A consistent challenge across the GCC is a bloated public sector that dominates employment, and an underdeveloped private sector.
Another point of consideration is that government policies do not necessarily reflect social norms. When it comes to personal freedoms, the Qatari government is somewhat liberal, but Qatari society is more conservative. Alcohol is available in Qatar and the UAE, whereas it is fully illegal in Kuwait. However, anecdotal evidence suggests it is more typical for Kuwaitis to drink alcohol than Qataris or Emiratis. Pressure from within society and the accompanying expectations are often the most powerful forces driving behavior, having more impact than messaging delivered top-down from the government.
Across the survey, several trends are evident. Qataris are consistently conservative. The youngest age group is often the most conservative, and the oldest is often the most liberal. In a significant number of the socially focused questions, there is a consistent correlation from youngest to oldest. Women are generally more conservative than men, and also more concerned about gender and relationship issues. When it comes to the economy and resources, the two wealthiest GCC countries per capita, Qatar and the UAE, are the least concerned about the resource curse and the negative effect of wealth and privilege on the local workforce.
Saudi and Kuwaiti responses typically fall in the middle on questions gauging the degree of conservatism. The results show that Saudis are the most optimistic about the direction their country is heading and are simultaneously very open to foreigners and highly concerned about the dilution of local culture. Kuwaiti responses point to a population that is relatively pessimistic and defined by a unique combination of traditional and progressive attitudes. For example, Kuwaitis are the second-most supportive of traditional gender roles and also the second-most opposed to arranged marriages. While Kuwaitis feel most strongly that a tribal mentality is prevalent in their country today, they also feel least strongly that Islam is central to their country’s cultural identity.
Emirati responses typically fall near Qatari ones, on the conservative side of the spectrum. Omanis and Bahrainis are relatively liberal, often joined by Kuwaitis. Charts 1 and 2 demonstrate the average score of each nationality and age group on a scale of conservative to liberal.
CULTURE, SOCIETY AND IDENTITY
In response to the question, “Where would you place yourself on the spectrum of liberal to conservative?” Qataris are the most conservative and Bahrainis are the most liberal. While Qatari women are the most conservative nationality-plus-gender grouping with the only average response over 5 on a scale of 1-10 (5.22), Qatari men have an average response of 3.67. This is below the overall average and represents the greatest gender disparity within a nationality. Saudi and Bahraini men are tied for the most liberal nationality-plus-gender grouping. Saudis, like Qataris, have a large gender disparity, with women responding far more conservatively than men.
In the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the gender disparities are relatively small. In Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, women are more conservative, while men are more conservative in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE. Overall, there is a consistent correlation with age, the youngest group being the most conservative and the oldest the most liberal. Respondents are generally concerned about local culture becoming diluted. The two nationalities with notable results are Omanis and Bahrainis. Omanis are by far the least concerned about this potential problem. Reasons why this is the case include Oman’s relatively small foreign population and the country’s concerted effort to preserve local culture through heritage sites and educational awareness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bahrainis are the most worried about cultural dilution. This may reflect a heightened concern about the demographic breakdown of foreigners versus locals as well as the government’s prioritization of cultural preservation. Overall, women are more concerned about the subject than men in every country except Oman.
When asked if social media has had a net positive impact on local society, the overall average response is neutral. Men and women have virtually identical average responses, and there is minimal disparity across age groups. Omanis and Saudis have the most positive view of social media’s impact, with an average response between neutral and agree. Bahraini and Kuwaiti responses are the most negative.
The overall average response is neutral when respondents are asked if a GCC national should wear traditional clothing. The average Qatari and Emirati responses are slightly above neutral, while the average Saudi and Kuwaiti responses are slightly below neutral. While men are generally more likely to agree with the notion than women, women are far more affirmative than men in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The least affirmative nationality-plus-gender groupings are Kuwaiti women and Saudi men. There is a consistent correlation with age, with the youngest group agreeing and the oldest disagreeing.
The average respondent thoroughly agrees that tribal mentality is still prevalent today in that person’s country. Kuwaitis, Qataris and Emiratis feel most strongly about the prevalence of that mentality, and Bahrainis least strongly. The oldest group, 33-38, feels least strongly about the statement.
Saudis are most optimistic about the direction in which their country is heading (Chart 3), followed closely by Qataris. Kuwaitis are the most pessimistic by a considerable margin. The average respondent is roughly neutral, and the youngest age group is most optimistic. Optimism among Saudi youth can be linked to the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has built a strong base with young people by promising sweeping economic reforms and relaxing some social restrictions. Kuwaiti pessimism is likely influenced by economic stagnation and political gridlock. Overall, women are slightly more optimistic than men.
Respondents generally agree that Islam is central to their country’s cultural identity (Chart 4). There is a modest disparity between Qataris as the most affirmative nationality and Kuwaitis as the least. In terms of age, there is a consistent correlation, with the youngest age group agreeing most strongly. Men and women have virtually the same average response.
When asked about the chief concerns of young locals growing up in their country, respondents point to the quality of education, the roles of media and materialism, and the loss of cultural and religious values. Responses address the lack of emphasis on learning the Arabic language, a poor work ethic, the impact of Westernization, and the need for more economic opportunities for young people with high aspirations. Some responses focus on mental wellbeing and independence — “loss of identity and belonging” and “we need a generation that thinks for themselves.”
In response to the question, “Why is the GCC more tradition-oriented than other societies?” respondents say that religion and tribalism are major factors. Some of the most commonly used words in responses are “religion,” “tribal” and “Bedouin.” Respondents note a fear of losing local culture, the difficulty for foreigners trying to acquire citizenship, the historical context of surviving in a harsh desert climate and the sense that oil wealth has allowed the GCC to be wealthy without opening up as much to the outside world. Numerous responses push back on the premise of the question and assert that the GCC is not unusual in its degree of traditionalism.
Respondents say that the elements of Gulf culture they are most proud of are its emphasis on “family,” “hospitality” and “generosity.” They believe that the Gulf is a “community-driven” environment where people help those in need. One response focuses on the resilience of youth: “I’m proud of my generation for holding on despite the immense social pressure. I don’t think anyone can really fathom the emotional toll it takes on us to have such advanced education and exposure to the world, yet to have to survive in a restricting culture that became too modernized too fast for people to adapt.”
The most damaging stereotypes about GCC nationals cited in responses are that they are “rich,” “lazy,” “spoiled,” “racist,” “closed-minded” and “sexist.” Respondents mention how outsiders assume that all Gulf nationals think in the same way, that they lack goals and ambition, and that Gulf women are objects who obey men. One respondent says that GCC nationals are stereotyped as closed-minded or not modern “when we choose our culture over following the Western path to modernization.” Another says that people assume “we live in a bubble of perfection and everything with our lives is okay.”
ECONOMY, DEMOGRAPHICS AND RESOURCES
Overall responses generally fall between neutral and disagree on whether it is a problem that the GCC population has such a high foreign presence. Kuwaitis view this subject most negatively, although their average response is still roughly neutral. Omani, Emirati, Qatari and Saudi responses are virtually identical on average.
On the question of whether locals should receive a hiring preference for desirable jobs, the average response is between neutral and agree. The outliers are Bahrainis, who agree with the statement considerably more than other nationalities. This reflects the relative health of their economy, which does not benefit from immense resource wealth and is largely dependent on Saudi assistance. Furthermore, Shia Bahrainis in particular have been marginalized in the job market and often have a difficult time obtaining high-paying employment.
Kuwaitis, Bahrainis and Omanis are the most concerned about the resource curse and inadequate economic diversification (Chart 5). On a scale of 1-10, their average response is 8.42. Saudis and Qataris rank in the middle, and Emiratis are the least concerned by a considerable margin, with an average response of 5.31. These results can be explained in part by the fact that Kuwait is the GCC economy most dependent on hydrocarbons; Bahrain and Oman do not have as much resource wealth as other GCC states. The Qatari and Emirati economies are the most secure, with a very high income per capita. As is the case above, Kuwaitis, Bahrainis and Omanis are the most concerned about wealth and privilege negatively affecting the local workforce (Chart 6). Those three nationalities have an average response of 7.59 out of 10. With an average response of 5.87, Saudis and Emiratis are less concerned, and Qataris are the least concerned.
In response to a question about how they are perceived by expatriates, respondents frequently use words like “privileged,” “entitled,” “spoiled,” “rich,” “lazy” and “ignorant.” Respondents also say that they feel feared by expats, and that expats are surprised when they are hard-working or relatively open-minded. There is also a sense that expats see locals as unknown and alien. One respondent says that “many expats don’t want to get involved with the community” outside of their own. Another remarks, “Usually I’m asked if I’m ‘Kuwaiti’ or ‘full Kuwaiti’ because I’m simply not actively aggressive or prejudiced, which is a pretty sad commentary in and of itself.”
FAMILY AND REPUTATION
Respondents from five of the six countries are roughly similar in how open they are with their parents about their lifestyle and personal choices. Overall, the average response is 6.24 out of 10. Emiratis are the exception, with an average score of 5.37, and they have the largest gender disparity, with Emirati women averaging a notably low score of 4.88. Saudi Arabia has the smallest gender disparity, with virtually no difference between the average male and female response. The overall average response for men and women is also very similar.
When it comes to how much pressure there is to conform to what one’s parents consider an appropriate lifestyle, the overall average response is 5.61 out of 10. There is a significant gap between the average response of 6.11 for women and 4.96 for men. Omani women have the highest average response, at 7.09, of a nationality-plus-gender grouping. Gender disparities are generally high, with the largest one appearing in the UAE (6.73 for women vs. 4.19 for men). Unlike in most countries, in Qatar it is the men who report a greater degree of pressure to conform (6.42 for men vs. 4.94 for women). The average respondent is neutral on the statement, “Gulf culture is so family oriented that it becomes problematic” (Chart 7). Women are, by a fair margin, more affirmative of the statement than men. Omani women and Saudi men agree most with the statement, whereas Emirati men are the nationality-plus-gender grouping that most disagrees, by a significant margin. The largest gender discrepancy is in the UAE, where women agree with the statement more than men. There is also a large gender discrepancy in Saudi Arabia, although in that case it is men who more strongly agree.
Respondents generally agree that their parents would object if they married someone from a different sect of Islam or a different religion (Chart 8). Qataris, Saudis and Emiratis have an average response above the overall average, while Bahraini and Omani responses are much closer to neutral. Women agree with the statement much more than men overall, and Qatari women are the most affirmative nationality-plus-gender grouping, with almost all responses coming in at the strongly agree level. The oldest age group is by far the least affirmative, with an average response of neutral.
Respondents talk about the older generation’s difficulty understanding their lifestyles when asked, “Do you know a lot of people from your country who lead double lives in order to please their families but also live how they wish? How can this be resolved?” Respondents explain that if a young person opens up to one’s parents about his or her lifestyle, it could be very risky, and that being able to succeed personally and professionally depends largely on adhering to society’s standards. Some respondents mention that having an identity crisis is better than risking “being completely disowned” in an environment where “family comes first.” One individual says that in order to spare heartache for parents and grandparents, “the double life is a sacrifice I gladly make.” Another respondent explains, “My father was born in a cave. I travel the world and question my beliefs every day. We’re in two different worlds.”
To fix this unhealthy dynamic, respondents talk about the importance of communication and a willingness to compromise on both sides. One individual says, “Parents should soften their stance, but their children should also aim to cultivate genuine respect for ‘old values.’” Multiple responses emphasize the importance of time and the idea that it “will take a generation” to improve the dynamic. People also say that individualism should be more appreciated, and parents should celebrate “their child’s critical thinking and ability to question things.”
On the topic of young Gulf nationals’ acting differently at home and abroad, and what that says about expectations and pressure in local society, respondents are divided. Some say it’s healthy because it’s an opportunity to have an outlet and be free to do and experience what they can’t at home, and that it’s a “mental break for the double life they have back home.” One respondent says it’s a “form of catharsis for years of cultural and religious baggage”; another asserts that “having one outlet is better than having no outlet at all.”
Other respondents say it is an unhealthy symptom of Gulf society. One says that it is a “sure indication of disparity between generations when it comes to culture and societal expectations”; another says it’s “extremely damaging to family dynamics and personal mental health.” Additional responses suggest the dynamic “leads to psychological problems and personality disorders down the line.” Youth are “constantly faced with the dilemma of preserving the face of our families instead of being true to ourselves.” Others describe acting differently depending on the environment, making locals “confused” by trying to “maintain the perfect image to their families” and stay happy themselves. One respondent blames the individual more than society: individuals can change society but by leading a double life they are “forcing others to face the same” challenges.
Some respondents say that, even though it’s unhealthy, it’s also a “way to enjoy life and not worry about being contradictory” and get relief from “suffocating” pressure at home. One individual says, “It isn’t healthy but it is better than clashing with older parents who will never understand.” Another calls it necessary: “Youth have to do so in order to socially survive. There are certain things that are acceptable abroad that wouldn’t be in Kuwait. The pressure regarding reputation and status results in youth having to take on two identities.” One person says, “Our communities are tiny, especially in Qatar, a small rumor or hearsay can spread like wildfire, and it could jeopardize people’s marriage options — among other things — so it’s best to keep things to yourself to save face. It’s a lot of pressure.”
In response to a question about how to make local society less judgmental and gossip-driven, respondents suggest better education, celebrating tolerance, calling people out, enforcing hate-speech and discriminatory laws and relieving the stigma around certain behaviors. One person says that there should be “greater engagement with elements of religion that take the focus away from others and place it on yourself.” Another asserts that the Gulf is less gossip-driven than Western society but is particularly judgmental: “When others don’t have the freedom that someone else has, they judge them to make themselves feel better.” One response calls for distancing from social media, but “because Kuwaitis all know each other and we’re all so interconnected, it’s almost impossible to take away gossip.”
GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS
The average respondent assesses the severity of the imbalance between men and women in his or her country as 5.96 out of 10. Not surprisingly, women feel more strongly about the severity, with an average of 6.49 vs. 5.3 for men. Interestingly, while Emirati men have an average response of 4, the lowest nationality-plus-gender grouping, Saudi men have an average response of 7.22, second highest only to Omani women (7.27). Women in every country except Saudi Arabia feel the imbalance is more severe, and Qatar has by far the least disparity between genders.
On the statement, “You believe in traditional gender roles as you understand them,” the average response is halfway between neutral and disagree. Qataris are the most affirmative on average, and Omanis the least. Men are more affirmative than women in every country except the UAE. Overall, men are more affirmative than women by a modest margin. There is a consistent correlation in terms of age, with the youngest group being the most affirmative.
The average respondent agrees that people should date before becoming engaged (Chart 9). Women are more affirmative than men in every country except Saudi Arabia, which has the lowest average response of any nationality and almost no gender disparity. In Kuwait, on the other hand, women are much more likely to agree with the statement than men. Bahrainis and Omanis most strongly agree with the notion.
When asked whether arranged marriages are appropriate today, the average respondent slightly disagrees, and the average response for men and women is identical. Qataris and Emiratis most strongly agree, relative to other nationalities, and Bahrainis are the least affirmative. Women are more affirmative in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia; men are more affirmative in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
Respondents generally agree that it is problematic that local men can marry foreigners much more easily than local women can. Kuwaiti women are the nationality-plus-gender grouping that agrees most with the statement. Saudi and Emirati men have the lowest average response: exactly neutral. Women agree with the statement more than men by a significant margin. On whether marriage between locals and foreigners is problematic, the average response is halfway between neutral and disagree. Women agree with the statement more than men by a modest margin, and Qatari and Kuwaiti women agree with it the most.
The average respondent disagrees that whether a woman covers her hair is a reliable indicator of how conservative she is (Chart 10). Men are more affirmative of the statement than women by a somewhat significant margin, and men in all countries more strongly agree with the statement than women. Bahrainis and Emiratis are most in agreement with the statement; Kuwaitis and Omanis are least in agreement.
The average respondent strongly agrees that local women should be able to study or work abroad unsupervised, and there is virtually no overall gender disparity. Women more strongly agree with the statement than men in every country except Qatar. The youngest age group is the least affirmative and markedly different from the other age groups in its average response. Omani and Kuwaiti women are the most affirmative nationality-plus-gender groupings, while Qatari women are the least affirmative by a large margin.
Fifty-four percent of respondents say that they or someone close to them have been sexually harassed. Two-thirds of Bahrainis and Omanis say yes, and 43 percent of Qataris respond with yes, the lowest rate of any nationality. Yes responses represent 62 percent of the total for women and 44 percent for men. Saudi men and women both have a yes response rate of 56 percent, and in Qatar half of men but only 39 percent of women say yes. Qatar is the only country where a higher percentage of men than women say yes.
When asked what the solution is to the problem of men harassing women, many responses focus on education and potential punishments. Several responses encourage gender integration earlier in the education system and emphasize the importance of addressing “fragile-masculinity issues.” Another response says that the solution is “nationwide/region-wide education about the marginalization of women, and undoing centuries of teachings about gender norms.” Other responses call for imposing fines, naming and shaming, imposing punishment that affects the individual’s public image and reputation instead of financial standing, and making it easier and more comfortable for women to go to the police and report harassment. One response emphasizes the need for rules to be followed and not broken without consequence by those who use their connections or “wasta” to escape punishment.
Some responses to the question on harassment focus on how women act and are perceived. One response calls on women to stand up for themselves: “We can’t just do nothing and expect people to suddenly change.” Another response says that “instead of women being raised to lower their gaze, not speak loudly, and not draw too much attention to themselves … men should be raised not to view women as objects they can claim to take and marry at their call.” One response says that “men still think they only need to “respect” a woman if she is covered. … If this perception doesn’t change, harassment will never stop, and I don’t see it changing any time soon.” One individual mentions the importance of “strong, empowered female figures in family and society.”
Several Kuwaitis call for the abolishment of Article 153 of the Kuwaiti penal code, which “stipulates that a man who finds his mother, wife, sister or daughter in the act of adultery and kills her is punished by either a small fine or no more than three years in prison.” An Omani respondent says, “We don’t have a big harassment problem in Oman, just continuous gender discrimination in the workplace and systemic discrimination in other areas.” One response focuses on the need for better “separation of mosque and state.”
Finally, there are several responses that represent an entirely different perspective. One says that society should “allow men to choose who they marry,” and that would decrease harassment. Another response says, “It’s important for women to pay attention to their boundaries.”
This report seeks to shed light on how young people from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries feel about culture, identity, and society. Data points based on an anonymous survey show how young GCC nationals view topics such as the impact of social media on local society, economic diversification away from oil and gas, and traditional gender roles. Responses are segmented based on age, gender, and nationality. While most responses are on a numerical scale, some are open-ended, allowing for an analysis of keywords.
Across the survey, Qataris are consistently the most conservative nationality. Overall, the youngest age group is often the most conservative and women are generally more conservative than men. Emirati responses typically fall near Qatari ones, on the conservative side of the spectrum. Omanis and Bahrainis are relatively liberal, often joined by Kuwaitis. Saudi responses typically fall in the middle on questions gauging the degree of conservatism. When it comes to the economy and resources, the two wealthiest GCC countries per capita, Qatar and the UAE, are the least concerned about the resource curse and the negative effect of wealth and privilege on the local workforce.
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