Is youth a necessary passage?

Article published on April 13, 2009
Article published on April 13, 2009
University strikes, school manifestations, disturbing unemployment rate: the French youth has no morale. According to a recent study by the Foundation for Innovation Policy they would even be the most pessimistic in the whole of Europe.

Manifestation jeunes FranceAnd, it is not getting any better. The High Commissioner for Youth, Martin Youth told the Nouvel Observateur last April 16th: "For some months, the unemployment rate in young people is increasing twice as fast than the rest of the population. If this continues, by January there would be half a million of unemployed under the age of 25 in France."

The study led by the Foundation for Innovation Policy conducted within 17 countries among 20,000 people aged between16 to 29 underlines the general feeling of anxiety among the youth.

Many see a future without perspective, marked by a devastated employment market in a society that value financial independence and autonomy to measure success. This pessimism manifests itself in different ways. France, Spain and Germany are amongst the countries who have the lowest morale: less than 36% of the people asked in these countries think that their future is promising in comparison with the 60% of Danish people who did.

The Isolation of the French Youth

The crisis affecting the French manifests itself through the loss of faith in the institutions, notably towards the educational system that is considered to only be the fifth most important factor in building their identity after the family, friends, profession and family situation. The study also shows a tendency towards isolation. The young generation of French people is less convinced that the family makes up the base of society in comparison with their European counter-parts. Certain tensions seem to exist between parents and their children according to social welfare. A phenomenon of "familialisation" of the republican school is then observed that makes the future of young people depend on the financial situation of the parents. "Forty years after May 1968, the youth of France seem to only have managed to gain their sexual autonomy and some radio stationed catering specifically to them," said Anna Stellinger, research director at Fondapol in the magazine Le Figaro. The educational model and the prospect of entering the workforce discourage the young people questioned. "The educational system is very elitist," confirmed Olivier Galland, research director of the The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and member of the Hirsch commission, to the magazine L'Express. "It eliminates rather than encourage and there are losers. There is a need for a more flexible system which adapts itself to the talents and the aspiration of each individual which could permit their success in their own level."

Italian "Adulescence"

On the other side of the Alps, it is not all roses either for the Italian youth. But they seem less resigned. Since the 1980s a phenomenon that could be described as "adulescence" could be observed. A large number of parents share their residence with children over 30 because of the difficulties encountered by their offsprings to find stable employment and the lack of housing aid from the government. The delay of the young in becoming autonomous is a ticking time bomb for the whole Italian society because it leads to the increase of marriage age and the decline of birthrate. Italy possesses one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe. The family remains the central point for the transalpine youth and allows a mutual aid during difficult times.

Political and Associative commitment in Germany

Some turn towards political and associative commitment to make things move. It is the case in Germany where 32% of young people give more importance the construction of the community (the green movement is very strong in Germany), twice more than the European average that is estimated at 19%. The involvement in the public life can be explained by a bigger autonomy at the regional to the landers level and the feeling of being able to act concretely for its future. The tensions manifest themselves more between professional ambition and family constraints, notably for the young Germans for whom the care of young children is becoming rare.

Professional Insecurity across the channel

Pessimism has reached more surprising coastlines… Even the subjects of her graceful majesty Elizabeth II, who only some months ago were living in a country with less than 5% of unemployment, began to change their point of view on working life. The flexibility of the British employment market coveted elsewhere in Europe has in fact increased the feeling of insecurity in the workforce where young workers are constantly obliged to adapt themselves. Many tend to focus less on professional career and prefer to adapt a hedonist behavior in their leisure activities or their consumption.

The light of hope comes, as it often does, from the North of Europe. The Swedish society for example, has successfully navigated through a serious economically and socially challenging period at the end of the 1990s. The Swedish youth seem less preoccupied by the “turbulences” brought on by globalization but believes instead in their individual fate that in that of their country: 49% of the young people consider their future to be promising. For the young Swedish people, the balance between career and family life is in this way paramount.

Picture : Philippe Leroyer/Flickr

Translated by Joanna Cordero