Coping with Uncertainty in the Transitions to Autonomy of Arab Youth

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Siyka KOVACHEVA, University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria
The paper examines how Arab youth deals with uncertainty in the passage to autonomy five years after the Arab Spring. Theoretically this paper builds upon the concept of uncertainty in understanding the dilemma of structure and agency in youth transitions and applies it to the specific context of five North African and Middle East Arab countries – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon. Young people’s choices between school and work, family formation, emigration or political engagement are analysed as heavily dependent upon the financial and cultural resources of the parental family, gender and rural/urban inequalities and yet influenced by young people’s own coping strategies and individual life projects.

The analysis is based upon data coming from a comparative research project combining a representative survey with 2000 respondents in each of the five countries and interviews-in-depth with young people in different settings. A focus is placed on youth unemployment and involvement in the informal economy in unfavourable local labour markets with inconsistent public policies and how these limiting structural conditions are subjectively evaluated and transformed. The combination of quantitative and qualitative data allows a reflection on the process of managing uncertainty with regards to the past experiences, present meanings and future aspirations of young people.