'My era was sixties Italy. My son’s era is the eighties. The fundamental core of my generation was the spirit of sacrifice, honesty and dignity, professional pride for the growth of society. Newer generations have replaced that with the credo ‘minimum engagement for a maximum of results’. It’s an egoism which puts ‘me, myself and I’ above everything and everyone. Success at any price to exercise power over others. However what’s sad is that today’s youth aren’t responsible for that today, but yesterday’s youth are. That’s a generation who betrayed themselves as they became adults.’
Linda, 56, Italy (mother and teacher who persists in believing in a better world)
‘Is there any difference between today’s and yesterday’s generation, or do perspectives just change with age? The youth of today are enthusiastic and pure; will they be tomorrow’s blasé, cynical elders? In any case our children’s generation force my admiration. They are curious and don’t know limits. The constant acceleration of communication and transport push the limits of possibility further. It gives them access to an ascending spiral in technical progress. The more older people are homemakers, the more the younger ones are mobile and unaware of frontiers. Their merit is greater than the proliferating Cassandras prophesising their catastrophers and cataclysms. War, terrorism, fundamentalism, the programmed destruction of the planet – nothing is spared for them, and yet the birthrate keeps rising (5.4 million children were born in the EU member states in 2008 - ed), couples keep forming, babies are born and life is richer. So I say bravo – stay enthusiastic and don’t let anyone destroy your dreams. Happiness exists, you just have to realise what it is.’
Elias, 56, France
‘I’ve been watching generation eighties grow thanks to my two daughters. They are people who had access to various educational opportunities in the large sense of the term. The ease of the digital world, the absence of linguistic frontiers, a united Europe – all of that together means a new generation which is ready for new experiences and new challenges.They are creative, courageous, independant and tolerant people who know how to adapt quickly to changes in the world of work. But it’s because a career and a high salary are their main motivations in life. Of course there are also young people with weaker characters who don’t know how to be as aggressive in the work market. However, in general, this is a generation which knows how to fight for its principles. Above all, they are young women who deserve to be recognised for the efficiency with which they assert their professional rights. I admire and appreciate the courage and ambition of young people. I wish them success professionally but also in their private lives. I would only underline that you don’t need to build your life around professional success and forget certain systems of values.’
Jolanta, 50, Poland
The generation born in the eighties: they were children who loved Superman, Knight Rider and Espinete (the main muppet from the Spanish Sesame Street - ed). They’re the last generation who played in the streets with pogs (‘tazos’ in Spanish) from crisp bags and spinning tops, and also the first who had fun with video games. They were the last to do B.U.P and C.O.U (the old Spanish educational system before university) and the pioneers of the ESO, which is the Spanish school leaving certificate. They are kids who are full of information, with higher education and languages, who can handle new technologies at their whim and who know how to travel with backpacks better than the next person. They’re young and supportive, able to absorb the positive from different people. But in spite of that and given the circumstances, they are a generation who have it tough to be stable professionally and be able to plan a dignified future.’
Teresa, 46, and Juan Luis, 49, Spain
Today's generation projects itself into the future but doesn't dare to enough. Today’s generation focus on perfection. Look at any job advert and you quickly get the impression that companies are hunting for Mr or Mrs Right: young, educated with professional experience, communicative, multilingual, social competences – basically someone who already has absolutely all that’s needed for the company. But such high demands inevitably provoke the fear of failure. Am I good enough? What other qualifications do I need? In such a decisive phase of my life will I be able to have my own private ambitions as well as having children and a family? Fear is always a bad adviser. This enormous level of pressure is making today’s generation lose what I think represents it’s most important, creative and elementary factor: spontaneity and ease of trying out new things. This was always youth’s privilege.
'Leave room for perfection'
That’s why I can only advise young people to try and test things out without trying to attain perfection all the time. Let a situation take you spontaneously even if you don’t seem to be the ideal candidate or it doesn’t necessarily confirm to your lifelong dreams. That doesn’t mean putting those aside either. That applies to work and family. Don’t analyse the tiniest details but be spontaneous – just do it! Young people can compensate for their little weaknesses with dynamism, a fresh approach, with enthusiasm and engagement. 'Generation Praktikum' (generation internship) has no future. The perfect job, house or material security won’t make you happy but the sensation of having fought for your place in life, which still leaves room for perfection even if still having some obstacles intact. Self-confidence should remain a privilege for young people – so dare it all!