Young people are living a period of accelerated change driven by an increased focus on diversity, sustainability, and technology. The rapid onset of Industry 4.0 (advanced, connected manufacturing) will further change the nature of work and require new skills.
Those between 15 to 35 years are close to 50 per cent of the UAE’s population—the largest demographic cohort. Investing in them to help each their full potential is a vital step in ensuring a secure economic future.
To understand the way forward, the Ideation Center at Strategy& Middle East collaborated with the Emirates Youth Council (EYC). We examined the top 10 youth-related trends that the pandemic has intensified, trends that will shape the next decade for UAE youth. There are five themes that drive these trends: education and human capital, employment and productivity, health and safety, society and sustainability, and citizenship.
In terms of education and human capital, youth should focus on digitized, personalized and life-long education. As educational models become more flexible, students will customize their learning experiences. Similarly, the focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math)-based education and learning across disciplines will intensify, with a stress on developing technological and soft skills.
Employers in turn need an agile, entrepreneurial and resilient workforce. Remote and digital working will become standard—enabled by the adoption of emerging technologies. The gig economy and fluid workforces are becoming more prevalent, with people holding many jobs or employees shared by multiple employers.
That means that youth will be inclined to find work that fulfills their desire for enterprise, personal freedom, innovation, individuality, and ownership. Similarly, they will place greater emphasis on their physical well-being. Fitness will be more holistic and more digitally enhanced.
Youth are already benefiting from innovations that offer personalized diets. Medical technologies will deliver data-driven preventive care and improve longevity. The pandemic has compounded mental health issues, but mental illnesses will lose their stigma and treatments will use new technologies.
A change in consumption
The pandemic has also encouraged youth to focus on sustainable consumption. There is higher stress on saving for the future rather than instant gratification. The sharing economy, which was hit hard by health concerns, will have to be reinvented. The entertainment industry is moving toward immersive digital experiences. Disruptions in supply chains means more support for local products. Youth will become more active in adopting resource-efficient lifestyles and promoting policies to counter climate change, and will influence businesses to be more eco-friendly. Similarly, youth will have increased opportunities for’ green’ education and jobs in renewables. On a community level, social cohesion is strengthening in the UAE.
This trend is part of broader changes in the structure of the family, with more women working, declining birth rates, and an increase in elderly dependents. Technology will lessen the intergenerational gap, while global citizenship education will prepare students for the future global work market.
Social protection, inclusion, and empowerment schemes will promote gender equality and people of determination will benefit from inclusive opportunities through assistive technologies. Social entrepreneurship is more popular, as is virtual volunteering.
Deploy tech creatively
Innovative channels like tech platforms are strengthening civic participation. Those platforms will also enable wider youth participation in policy and decision-making. Youth should treat these trends as priorities, preparing for Industry 4.0, seeking internships and entrepreneurship programmes while testing entrepreneurial ideas through startup challenges.
They should take initiative and prioritize their physical and mental health, using technology to set physical activity prompts, and adopting telemedicine and personalized healthcare. They should be financially responsible and develop money management skills. They should develop eco-friendly habits and ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ lifestyles.
In response, relevant entities should have the appropriate policy for each trend. These entities should remain involved with youth so that young people become more engaged in co-designing solutions.
Organizations can create alliances with technology firms to provide youth with internships and apprenticeships. They should nurture an ecosystem for youth enterprise and improve the availability of finance for young entrepreneurs.
Together, youth initiatives and official policies can have considerable impact, preparing youth and the UAE for the future.