Crisis generates negative expectations among young people

Young people in Spain are particularly affected by the difficult economic crisis, according to a recent report. The concerns of young people are reflected in negative perceptions about the current situation as well as the outlook for the coming year. The low expectations of young people are particularly dramatic as far as the labour market is concerned. This situation is also negatively affecting the perception of young people about the political, social and economic system.

Background

The Queen Sofia Centre on Adolescence and Youth recently published a report, Crisis and the social contract: young people in the society of the future. The report examines the experiences and attitudes of young people in Spain in the light of the current economic crisis and looks at their expectations for the future. The study is based on a survey of 1,000 Spanish young people aged 18 to 24.

The report concludes that the economic crisis has had a massive impact on young people in Spain. Of those questioned for the survey, 81.4% said they regarded the current situation as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’. Just 4.5% who felt the current situation in the country was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

Unemployment the biggest concern

Young people believe the most significant problem for them is unemployment, with 76.4% saying this was their greatest concern. This was followed by low salaries (44.5%), the precariousness associated with the few jobs that are available (39.8%), and the lack of state aid and scholarships on offer (36%).

The survey asked what activities young people were currently involved in (see table). The figures showed that 44.7% of respondents were only involved in studying, 23.6% combined work and study, 18.4% were working, and 12.4% are unemployed.

The share of young people either working or unemployed was higher among the lower social classes. The ‘social class’ an individual belongs to was based on an objective allocation carried out by the study researchers, based on several family, education and work characteristics.

Main activities of young people in Spain by social class
 

High

Medium high

Medium

Medium low

Low

Total

Only work

4.2

14.9

21.4

19.4

26.0

18.4

Only study

68.8

53.6

45.1

34.8

27.3

44.8

Combines work and studies

21.9

27.4

24.2

22.5

19.5

23.7

Unemployment

5.2

4.2

9.1

21.7

24.7

12.4

Other situations

0.0

0.0

0.3

1.6

2.6

0.7

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Source: Crisis and Social Contract. The Young in the future society

Expectations not bright

Perhaps the most dramatic element of the research is the revelation that expectations for the future are not positive at all. Half of those young people who currently have a job are unsure about their future. Only 48% said it was ‘unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ that they would lose their job over the coming year, whereas 37% were convinced that they would lose their job.

These negative expectations were highest among those with temporary jobs.

The research also found that approximately 71% of those who did not currently have a job were ‘pessimistic or very pessimistic’ about the possibility of finding one in the coming year. Only 19% felt confident about finding a job.

Of those interviewed, 48.6% of those who were unemployed suggested they would be ready to accept any job, in any area and even for a low salary. By comparison, only 9.8% said they would only accept a ‘perfect’ job – one which was a good fit with their educational background, offered a good salary and was in the right location. In fact, 84.9% of all Spanish youngsters suggest it is ‘likely/very likely’ that in the future they would have to accept whatever job was available, while 61.7% regarded it as ‘likely/very likely’ that they would have to go abroad for work.

On the positive side, the economic crisis has resulted in extra attention being paid to education issues. More than half of the young people interviewed (53%) stressed the importance of being prepared for the future through training and education.

Desire for profound political change

The economic crisis is also having an impact on the views of young about the Spanish political, social and economic system.

More than a third (38.8%) of the young people questioned said the future level of citizen rights would not be the same as it was before the crisis. Nearly half (46.4%) were in favour of a profound change in the current political and economic system. This compares with 37.3% who say it would be better to keep the present model.

Finally, the economic crisis has reinforced the central role that the family plays in Spanish society. Family life is an element valued highly by the young respondents in this survey who gave it an average score of 8.6 on a scale from 0 to 10. The same score was given to the importance of friends. The importance of free time, the economic situation or work were all rated as less important than these two aspects of daily life.

The majority of young people (80%) were convinced that, at least in the near future, they would have to depend economically on their families.

Commentary

The report shows young people in Spain feel that the current economic crisis is damaging not only their current personal situation but also their future expectations. At the root of this social distress are the difficulties in finding a job, combined with worries about the precarious nature and poor quality of those jobs which are available.

There is massive disillusionment with the Spanish political, social and economic system which may have very negative consequences for the future.

By way of contrast, the crisis is reinforcing the traditional key role played by the family within Spanish society, still perceived as offering most security and the best guarantee of a safety net a bleak economic landscape.

Iñigo Isusi, Ikei Research and Consultancy

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