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A lost generation?

Posted on 14 February 2014 .
Tags: Understanding Society, young people

Penny YoungLast week Channel 4 News focussed on the “lost generation” – the cohort of young people that has been hit hardest by cuts in funding to housing and education and a tough job market.  We fed into Friday evening’s feature on how young people are feeling about their professional and educational prospects using data from the Understanding Society study.

Encouragingly, the numbers show that most young people don’t consider themselves to be a lost generation. 4 out of every 5 16-20 year olds are optimistic that they will be successful and get ahead in life.

But bright-eyed and bushy tailed as they may be, it’s worth noting that a sizeable minority are indeed concerned for their future. One quarter are pessimistic about finding the right work - they can’t see themselves getting a job in their desired field. And only 43% think it's very likely that they will get a place at uni or on training in their preferred field.

There are also signs that things have got worse since the financial crash. Pre-recession, 6 in 10 thought it very likely they’d get a job in their field – this has fallen to 45%. This has not put them off though, if anything, young people now seem more determined - with more likely to think that they’ll actually finish their studies than before.

They’re also less likely to see themselves getting married or having children. This is likely to be in part the result of the tough housing market, which sees over a third (38%) of British parents chipping into the offspring’s first housing buy, and undoubtedly has sway over when people think it’s realistic that they can start a family.

The 16-20 year olds we surveyed don’t see they’re future through rose-tinted spectacles. Things are hard for young people these days, and as Channel 4 News’ spotlight on this generation shows, they are likely to be the first generation in modern history that won’t be better-off than their parents. But, to some extent, their expectations have changed with the climate - challenged and worse-off they may be, but lost they are not.

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