MENA's fresh graduates say finding a job is the greatest challenge facing their generation
July 20th, 2015, YouGov

MENA's fresh graduates say finding a job is the greatest challenge facing their generation

The 2015 'Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa' survey, conducted by YouGov and, has found that 76% of respondents state finding a job is the biggest challenge of their generation; in line with this, 80% are considering entrepreneurship as a potential future career option.

Indeed, up to 45% of fresh graduates living in MENA state that landing their first job was/will be ‘very difficult’. 32% say their job search lasted/will last between 3 and 12 months, while 16% claim that it took/will take less than 3 months. Just 3% got or are expecting to get a job directly through campus placements. A quarter stayed or anticipate staying in their first job for 1-2 years.

According to 60% of respondents across the region, the biggest challenge they face in finding a job is the fact that employers are looking for candidates with previous experience. Knowing where to find relevant jobs and how to approach the job search effectively are also considered to be challenges by 39% and 34% respectively.

Most MENA graduates (67%) are satisfied with the quality of higher education they received; in fact, 43% consider the preparation it gave them for the workplace to be ‘very good’ or ‘good’. However, according to 80% of the sample, their college or university did not help them identify job opportunities. Overall, 52% of graduates living in MENA acquired work experience either before or during their time at university.

More than a third of fresh graduates living in MENA (39%) do not feel that they would have fared better in the job market if they had chosen a different major or different school, with 63% admitting to having considered the job availability in the field they chose to major in prior to enrolment. By contrast, 33% of working MENA respondents ended up working in a totally different industry.

The most appealing industries from a career perspective, according to MENA's fresh graduates, are banking and finance (24%) and engineering and design (23%). Business consultancy, business management and management consulting (19%) and education and academia (16%) are also popular industries. Encouragingly, two thirds of respondents (64%) claim their education prepared them to target the industry of their choice.

For almost half of respondents, the most important attribute when selecting a job is experience in the field they want to work in. While 75% rely on leading online job sites to search for employment opportunities, 51% apply directly to companies and a resourceful network of family and friends is also highly valued and used by 47% of respondents. According to 58% of fresh graduates, computer skills are considered to be among the most important skills required to excel in the workplace, followed by linguistic skills (44%), and academic and technical skills (39%).

Salary expectations for fresh graduates living in MENA are not high; 31% expect to receive/have received up to US$500, while 12% anticipate a salary between US$501-1,000. A large portion (68%) of MENA respondents expect to be offered/were offered a basic salary. 38% are also looking to receive/have received personal medical insurance and 29% anticipate a training and development course allowance. A quarter expect to receive housing allowance.

When asked what challenges fresh graduates face the most, 43% claim saving money is difficult, while 32% say discovering what they want to do in life is a major challenge for them. 74% claim there is low availability of jobs for fresh graduates in MENA. However, approximately half are optimistic that their generation has better career and educational opportunities in comparison to their parents' generation.

When it comes to industries that seem to be hiring the highest number of fresh graduates, MENA respondents listed advertising/marketing (27%), followed by banking/finance (20%), and military/defence/police (16%). According to 47% of the sample, these industries employ fresh graduates because they have lower salary expectations; 34% believe the reason behind that is the fact that young graduates are compliant and willing to follow instructions. On the other hand, 69% of respondents believe that companies are hesitant to hire fresh graduates because they may lack the needed on-the-job experience.

"The 2015 Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa survey reveals that finding a job of their liking is proving difficult for fresh graduates in the region," said Suhail Masri, VP of Sales, "While most of these young job seekers firmly believe that their lack of experience is what is jeopardizing their job search, results from our extensive research into the MENA region’s employment sector disagree with that assumption. The truth is, employers in MENA are increasingly tapping into the graduate talent pool; they are looking for capable individuals who can seamlessly transition from academia to industry, regardless of their level of experience."

Elissavet Vraka, Research Manager, YouGov MENA, echoed that statement, adding: "It is great to know that so many young graduates who are trying to find a job are also considering embarking on the entrepreneurial route in the future. Today, entrepreneurship plays a pivotal role in a country’s economic development; it can spur growth, innovation, and, of course, job creation. And this can, in turn, help shape the future of employment in the MENA region."

Data for the Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa survey was collected online from June 8-18 2015, with 1,006 respondents from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.