Young people in Europe are worried about what the future holds. Compared to their peers in other regions of the world, they are much more pessimistic about what lies ahead. Only 12% of young people in Belgium, 16% of those in Spain, and 30% in Poland, for example, feel that their generation is likely to have a better life than their parents.
This pessimism is not unjustified. In the European context, young people are the age group at the highest risk of poverty and social exclusion. Moreover, they increasingly face barriers to accessing their social and economic rights, including a difficult transition from education to employment, a lack of quality jobs, and poor access to social protection.
Our economic and social model is one where employment plays a central role in our lives, with work as the means through which individuals generate income. Today, work is considered an activity that is highly desirable: it provides access to certain benefits, like social protection, and it can offer the potential for self-expression and self-realization.
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Yet, today’s labor market has failed to provide young people with the kind of job opportunities and income security that make them feel confident in their future. Moreover, our consumption and production patterns have caused significant harm to our planet, fueling young people’s feelings of insecurity about the future. As a result, they are increasingly losing trust in the political institutions that are meant to protect their interests.
While young people already struggle to deal with challenges in their working lives today, the situation of the labor market is becoming ever more difficult. A set of four global ‘megatrends’ are set to dramatically transform the future of work. These changes bring two possibilities: either young people can become further isolated from the labor market as a result of new barriers, or governments and institutions can intervene to ensure that the inequalities and discrimination that prevent young people from fully accessing their rights today are not reproduced in the future. The future of work is a challenge that cannot be ignored. Policy-makers need to respond now to the barriers that young people will face, to ensure a fair future of work that does not leave young people behind.
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