The social situation of young people in Europe

k, 25/03/2014
k, 25/03/2014

25 March 2014, Dublin, Ireland

Venue: European Union House, Dublin

Eurofound organised with the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) the launch of new findings on the Social Situation of Young People in Europe (Policy brief). Eurofound's new policy brief on the social situation of young people highlights the challenges they face in the wake of the economic crisis, and the substantial personal and social resources they possess.

Delegates at the launch included representatives from local governments, service providers, civil society and social partnersWelcome messages were delivered by Paschal Donohoe, Minister of State for European Affairs at the Department of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Juan Menéndez-Valdés, Director of Eurofound.  

Speakers included Anna Ludwinek, Research Manager, Living Conditions and Quality of Life Unit, Eurofound [Presentation on the social situation of young people, 1MB PDF], Marie-Claire McAleer, Senior Research & Policy Officer, National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) and the event chair Mary Cunningham, Director of the NYCI.

A programme is available. Additional information about the event can be found on the NYCI website

Presenting the policy brief

The brief uses data from the Agency’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) from 2007 and 2011 to compare how the circumstances of young people aged between 18 and 29 have changed since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. 

Eurofound research manager Anna Ludwinek, one of the authors of the report, highlighted some key findings from the policy brief:

  • a substantial increase in the proportion of young people living at home with their parents;
  • a rise in the extent of serious deprivation;
  • a fall in the extent to which young people trust their national government.

Ms Ludwinek stressed that while remaining in the family home may not be in itself unfavourable, it does mean that young adults are forced to defer key life decisions such as finding a partner or spouse, and starting a family. This increase seen between 2007 and 2011 points to a longer-term societal shift with potentially profound consequences – not least, in terms of concerns about birth rates across Europe and the continent’s demographic ageing. 

Meanwhile, a dramatic increase in the proportion of young people experiencing serious deprivation is visible from the survey data.

Figure: Experience of serious deprivation, 2007 and 2011 (%)

Graph showing extent of deprivation among young people in EU, 2007 and 2011

What the graph does not show is the greater risk of deprivation among young people who are unemployed, economically inactive, and those living with their parents and with children of their own; these young people in multigenerational households are also most likely to feel themselves excluded from wider society.

Important resources

While Europe’s young adults face serious challenges, they also have important resources to draw on:

  • greater satisfaction with their social and family and social life than other age groups;
  • high levels of social engagement, in the form of cultural activities, sport and volunteering; 
  • a high degree of optimism.

This was echoed by delegates at the event, who spoke of the engagement, positivity and resourcefulness of young adults – often obscured, they said, by popular portrayals of today’s young people as self-absorbed and individualistic. 

Broad approach

Ms Ludwinek highlighted that engagement of young people had to be considered in two dimensions: in the labour market and in society in a broader sense. Echoing this, Robert Anderson, head of Eurofound's Living Conditions and Quality of Life unit, noted that the Agency is convinced of the importance of having information on such issues as participation and exclusion to complement standard measures of poverty and so gain a multidimensional picture of quality of life.

This comprehensive and holistic  approach – including economic, social, personal and family concerns – mirrors the joint priorities of the European Youth Strategy: to provide better opportunities for young people both in education and in the job market, and to encourage young people to actively participate in society.

The policy brief is part of Eurofound's Foundation Findings series.

The EQLS findings are also available online to explore in the interactive Data Visualisation Tool.

Photos from the event

Minister Paschal Donohoe and Juan Menéndez-Valdés Anna Ludwinek
Anna Ludwinek and Marie-Claire McAleer Mary Cunningham, Paschal Donohoe, Juan Menéndez-Valdés, and Anna Ludwinek
Venue Details
European Union House
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