Arab Youth: A Contained Youth?

  • Joerg Gertel Institute of Geography, University of Leipzig


Young people in the Arab world increasingly have to struggle with economic hardship and difficulties to start their own lives, although the majority is better educated than ever before. The problematic labor market situation combined with weak public schemes to support young careers force large sections of young people to postpone their ambitions to marry. This period of delayed marriage is captured as 'waithood'. I will argue that this term is misleading. Two points of critique apply: The social dimension of waiting exceeds the status of remaining inactive until something expected happens; the ever-changing present continuously generates new realities. Simultaneously uncertainties and insecurities have dramatically expanded since 2011 and further limit livelihood opportunities and future perspectives, particularly of the youth. Young people are hence becoming both, increasingly frustrated and disadvantaged the longer they "wait", and even more dependent on parents and kin networks. This hinders them to develop their personality – they rather have to accommodate with values that are not always suitable to master the present requirements of a globalizing world. In this paper I will inquire, in how far young people of the Arab world have thus to be considered as a “contained youth”.

Author Biography

Joerg Gertel, Institute of Geography, University of Leipzig

is professor for Arabic Studies and Economic Geography at the University of Leipzig in Germany. Studying, working or researching affiliated him with the universities of Freiburg, Damascus, Cairo, Khartoum, Rabat, Seattle and Auckland. His research centers on the dynamics of globalization and inquires the challenges of uncertainty and insecurity. Among his more recent (coedited) books are: Seasonal Workers (Routledge 2014/17); Disrupting Territories (James Currey 2014); Youth Movements (transcript 2014, in German); Coping with Uncertainty. Young People in North Africa and the Middle East (in German: Dietz 2017; in English and Arabic: Saqi forthcoming).


How to Cite
Gertel, J. “Arab Youth: A Contained Youth?”. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Vol. 9, Dec. 2017, pp. 25-33, doi: