A new survey about ‘Generation Next’ shows that children and young people born around the millennium are responsible and pragmatic, wanting stricter age restrictions on social vices such as gambling; believing that race and gender will not hold them back but that a lack of affluence will. They are also disengaged from mainstream political parties but not from the political issues that affect their lives, according to a new report by leading children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau and Ipsos MORI.
The survey of nearly 3,000 children aged between 11 and 16 found more young people think the legal age at which you can buy alcohol (18) should be higher, than those who think it should be lower (21%, compared with 14%). Similarly, more think that the age at which you can place a bet or gamble should be made higher, than those who think it should be lowered (37%, compared with 9%).
The survey also found that three quarters of young people do not think gender or ethnicity holds you back from getting a well-paid job, although coming from a wealthy background or going to private school is more likely to be seen as a an advantage in the workplace, with 35% thinking it is easier to get a well paid job if you are from a rich family and 27% thinking that private education gives an advantage.
This is a generation for whom policies not politicians matter: 71% have no allegiance to any political party and only 14% of young people think the Government will do a good job for the country over the next year. However, this doesn’t mean that they are not engaged with politics, as many think government should focus its spending on theNHS,healthcare and hospitals(20%),education / schools(15%) and poverty (11%). In addition, four out of ten would welcome the voting age lowered to 16 years old.
- 69% of girls and 56% of boys say they are worried about job prospects.
- 35% believe that it is easier to get a well-paid job if you are from a rich family or if you have been to a private school (27%).
- Less than two in five expect life to be better for Generation Next than it was for their parents (37%) and 25% believe it will be worse.
- The majority of Generation Next (71%) do not currently have an affiliation to any particular political party.
- Around two in five think the legal age at which you can buy cigarettes, get married, join the army or be held responsible for a criminal activity should be raised, but 39% want the voting age lowered.
Equality of opportunity
Job opportunities are a key concern for today’s young people. Grim employment prospects have compelled young people entering the ‘adult world’ to worry about job opportunities when they leave school: more than three in five say so.
This younger generation firmly believes in Britain as a meritocracy. Generation Next see passing exams and getting qualifications as the most important factor in helping people to do well and get on in life: as many as 86% believe it is averyimportant factor. However, this optimism is not entirely shared by young people who describe themselves as black, a third (34%) of whom think it is easier to get a well-paid job if you are white compared with 14% of Asian young people and nine percent of white young people.
The survey also examined young people’s views on the effect that family background may have on career opportunities. This is most likely to be seen as an advantage in regards to getting a well-paid job; over a third (35%) believe that it is easier to get a well-paid job if you are from a rich family, and in with the possible advantages afforded to young people from rich families, over a quarter (27%) believe that it is easier to get a well-paid job if you have been to a private school.
Generation Next feel optimistic that it will be no more difficult to have a family of their own (67%) or to get a successful, well-paid job (55%) than it was for their parents. However, less than two in five expect life to be better for Generation Next than it was for their parents (37%).
In the more immediate future, those members of Generation Next who decide to go into higher education will pay tuition fees, and most will start their working life with large debts to repay. The impact of this, coupled with spiraling house prices and a housing shortage, is highlighted in our findings: two in five of Britain’s youth feel it will be harder for them to buy their own house than it was for their parents.
The survey findings highlight the concerns and anxieties of young people. Seven in ten (69%) are worried about getting good grades, and 63% are worried about the job opportunities available to them when they leave school. This is significantly higher than the proportions who are worried about their appearance and the way they look (44%), or even keeping up with the latest trends and technology (23%). Other issues making Generation Next anxious are:
- 39% worry about their weight
- 39% worry that their parents work too hard
- 30% are concerned their family will have enough money to live on
- 25% worry that one or both of their parents will lose their job
- 21% are concerned that their parents may split up or divorce.
Only 14% of Generation Next believes the government will do a good job in running the country in the year ahead. 71% have no political affiliation. Girls, in particular, are unsure which political party they might affiliate themselves with (75% compared with 67% of boys).
However, two in five (39%) of Generation Next want the voting age lowered.
Among the minority of young people who named a political party they feel close to, Labour is the most popular (14%), while six per cent associate themselves with Conservatives, and two per cent with each of the Green Party and Liberal Democrats.
Generation Next has ideas about what action local and national government should be taking. On a national scale young people think that the government should focus its spending on the NHS, healthcare and hospitals (20%), education / schools(15%) and looking after the poor (11%) supporting the attitudes that adults hold towards government spending.
Generation Next highlightactivities for teenagersas most in need of improvement in their local area (40%). Following on from that, however, the list of things that young people would like to see improved in their local area becomes less predictable. Indeed, the demand to improvesports and leisure facilities,facilities for young children,schools,parks and open spaces, andcultural facilitiescome way down on their list (mentioned by one in four or fewer young people). Instead, crime and anti-social behaviour (35%), clean streets (35%) and affordable housing (34%) are the areas that Generation Next would most like to see targeted for improvement in their local area.
Legal age of responsibility
The young people we surveyed showed themselves as responsible and mature and made surprising choices when it came to the legal age at which they are able to do things or be held responsible for their actions. Around two in five think the legal age at which you can buy cigarettes, get married, join the army or be held responsible for a criminal activity should be raised.
In the same vein – and perhaps even more surprisingly – more young people think the legal age at which you can buy alcohol (18) should be higher, than those who think it should be lower (21%, compared with 14%). Similarly, more think that the age at which you can place a bet or gamble should be made higher, than those who think it should be lowered (37%, compared with 9%).
There are only two areas where a significant proportion of young people would like to see the current age restrictions lowered; for learning to drive a car (currently set at 17) and being able to vote. With no significant demand for the lowering of the age of consent, or the age at which you can buy cigarettes and alcohol, the question that arises is whether or not Generation Next are making more conservative choices or thinking more responsibly?
Annamarie Hassall, Acting Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau said: “Children may not have the vote but their views and opinions are just as important as adults. Their ideas matter and this new survey provides a fresh insight into young people’s hopes and fears for the future and provides many surprises along the way.”
“We have found that young people are passionate believers in equal opportunities, and believe gender and race should not affect their chances of finding good jobs, but that family disadvantage is still seen by many as a barrier to getting into work. In particular, politicians should note that the next generation of voters is not convinced about how much the Government will do to improve their life chances; they rely on their own hard work in education to improve their career opportunities.
“Contrary to how they are often portrayed in the media, Generation Next are confident in expressing an opinion on what needs changing in their local area and their priorities for government spending. We encourage all political parties and those with influence to listen to Generation Next as they develop their plans for the General Election and the next five-year government.”
Writing in the foreword of the report, Baroness Tyler, President of the National Children’s Bureau said: “These 11 to 16 year-olds, growing up in the context of significant economic challenges and with the proliferation of new technology, share some of the concerns of their parents’ generation. Across the generations, crime, activities for young people and street cleanliness are identified as local priorities. However, they have their own challenges too.”
“They are anxious about getting good grades and a job when they leave school, about their appearance and about their parents working too hard. Many believe it will be harder for them to buy a house or get a job than it was for their parents. In fact, only a minority of Generation Next think life will be better for them than it was for their parents.”
Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute said: “This major new survey paints a picture of a next adult generation that has a high sense of personal responsibility and drive, are more averse to risky behaviours and who care about a wide range of social issues. But they are also very disconnected from political parties, have very low levels of optimism for their generation and little faith in institutions like the government.
This continues a trend we’ve already seen among young adult generations – political leaders have to think about engaging young people in very different ways if party politics is going to stay relevant to future voters. “