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Emerging-market 'youth upbeat on future'

Young people in the Asia-Pacific region's emerging markets are largely optimistic about the future, according to the inaugural MasterCard Youth Confidence Index.

The index measures the short-term outlook and confidence levels among people aged 18-30 years in the Asia-Pacific region.

Respondents were asked about their six-month outlook on five economic factors including employment prospects, the economy, regular income, and present versus anticipated quality of life in five years. The index was calculated with 0 as the most pessimistic, 100 as most optimistic and 50 as neutral.

Of the 16 Asia-Pacific markets polled, Myanmar came out leagues ahead with an overall index score of 92.4. Youth in India (84.0) and Indonesia (82.5) were also front-runners in optimism, followed by the Philippines (78.5) and mainland China (77.5).

Thailand had an overall index score of 71.8, higher than the average of the whole Asia-Pacific (67.8).

Youth in developed markets reflected lower levels of confidence, with Taiwan (42.2) and Japan (48.6) trailing the region.

Among emerging markets, Bangladesh was the exception, scoring 55.2 on the overall index, a possible reflection of the challenges faced by the country last year. In contrast, Myanmar 's eventful year, one filled with progress, was reflected in the consistently positive attitudes of their young people towards the economy, employment and regular income prospects.

Across all markets, youth were most optimistic about their regular income prospects and least optimistic about their present life situation. In addition, when asked if their life situation in five years would be better than today, emerging markets were most optimistic, with Myanmar 's youth (92.9) once again leading the pack, followed by the Philippines (85.6), China (84.5) and Thailand (80.3).

"This new index by MasterCard is a good barometer for where today's youth stand in terms of confidence levels regarding a variety of economic factors," said Pierre Burret, region head for Asia-Pacific at MasterCard Advisors, the credit-card giant's professional-services arm.

"It is encouraging to see strong scores reflecting optimistic attitudes towards the coming six months, especially with regard to employment and regular income prospects, which no doubt have a significant impact on the potential of the youth consumer market as well."

Separately, in a MasterCard survey of people above the age of 30, respondents were asked similar questions about their short-term confidence levels, with their views on the local stock market as an added category. While the overall confidence score for the MasterCard Youth Index across all Asia-Pacific markets was 67.8, the MasterCard Consumer Confidence Index for the older segment was lower, at 61.5.

This trend of higher optimism among youth was consistent across the Asia-Pacific region, with developed markets seeing the greatest disparity in optimism levels between people aged below and above 30, most notably in Singapore (68.8 versus 50.3), Australia (64.0 vs 49.9) and South Korea (58.1 vs 51.9).

That said, all three markets were different in the category that older consumers were more worried about compared with their younger counterparts. In Australia, the older age segment were largely pessimistic about their employment prospects (31.5), in Singapore the concern was the economy (38.9), and in South Korea, the older segment scored nearly 14 points below youth in their outlook towards regular income prospects.


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