Ipsos MORI research reveals widespread pessimism regarding the future of young people

IF volunteer Aleksandra Blawat explains the latest findings from leading research organisation Ipsos MORI, which suggest that people are worried about the prospects of the next generation all over the worldSad girl holding a crumpled letter

Ipsos MORI, a research company, has released a report identifying ‘global trends’ based on the survey responses of 32,206 people in 20 countries. One of the trends they spotted is that more people seem to be concerned about generational issues in both emerging and established economies.

Increased risk of conflict in emerging economies

Many emerging economies are experiencing a ‘youth bulge’: 71% of Nigerians are under 30, and one million young people will enter the labour market in India each month for the next 20 years. Increasing proportions of young people have led to “rising expectations and stress on education and training systems struggling to match labour market supply to demand”.

Political scientists argue that youth bulges contribute to the risk of conflict. In a paper published in International Studies Quarterly, Henrik Urdal – senior researcher at Oslo’s Peace Research Institute – found that “with every percentage point increase in the youth population, relative to the [total] adult population, the risk of conflict increases by more than 4 per cent.” This holds controlling for factors such as democracy, economic development, and conflict history.

Young people must navigate tougher economic conditions than parents and grandparents

In established economies, the focus is not on the pressures of rapid population growth, but rather on the constraints that young people face living in economies with ageing populations that are struggling to grow. While young people in the UK are hit with increasing housing costs, falling real wages, and growing economic uncertainty, Ipsos MORI researchers point out that “baby boomers [are] hanging onto jobs, power and assets for longer than ever.”

Across the 20 countries studied by Ipsos MORI, more people think the future will get worse (42%) rather than better (34%) for the young. Responses are particularly startling in France, where only 7% of the population are optimistic.

Interestingly, the biggest difference in how the prospects of the young people are perceived by different generations occurs in Britain: “only 22% of younger people in Britain think they will have a better life than their parents, compared with 36% of the whole population.”

An important aspect of intergenerational fairness is social mobility. Strikingly, a 2007 report by the Sutton Trust, a think tank specialising in education, found that social mobility in the UK has not shown improvement since 1970. Furthermore, it is likely to have declined since 2007, due to the rise in inequality following the Great Recession and subsequent austerity measures (which has hurt the poorest two-tenths of the population most). The Institute for Fiscal Studies, Britain’s leading independent microeconomic research institute, argues that it is likely to be very hard to increase social mobility without tackling inequality.”

Despite the anger surrounding intergenerational unfairness, the increased squeeze on young people in the developed world has not generally been expressed through sustained protests or the creation of new political movements. Ipsos MORI argue in their report that the trend towards individualisation makes doctrinaire ideologies and political movements less attractive, helping to explain low voter turnout among young people.

In the 2013 local elections, an estimated 32% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 72% of those aged over 65. However, when you consider that Ipsos MORI’s survey results reveal only 23% of people in Great Britain think older people should have to make sacrifices in order to help the younger generation get on in life, it looks clear that that young people need to become more politically engaged if they want politicians to take their concerns seriously.