The bedrock of society

Understanding and growing the MENA region’s middle class

Published: 16.04.2012
by Richard Shediac, Samer Bohsali, Hatem Samman,

The middle class is often the catalyst for positive socioeconomic change in developing countries, yet that has not happened in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Many of the region’s middle-class residents have grown dependent on their governments for jobs and services. Combined with weak social and economic infrastructures, this reliance on the state has prevented middle-class people from advancing and helping their national economies become stronger.

Governments in the region can change this, yet they must first understand who constitutes the middle class, how these people feel about economic conditions in their countries, and what their future hopes and dreams are. To that end, Booz & Company surveyed roughly 1,450 middle-class people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.

Our results show that, with minor national variations, the middle class in these countries are anxious about core issues such as living standards, inflation, and job security. Respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the delivery of public services, including education, healthcare, and social security. Perhaps most troubling, many middle-class residents in the region do not believe their home countries offer them opportunities to succeed, and some would consider emigrating to more promising markets.

To address these concerns, policymakers in the region must launch political and socioeconomic reforms aimed at helping the middle class become as skilled, entrepreneurial, and productive as their Asian or Western counterparts. Moreover, economic reforms must be complemented by deep institutional and legal reforms to support good governance and public transparency. If these reforms succeed, governments will not only help the middle class advance in MENA countries, but they will ensure greater political stability and stronger economic growth over the long term.


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