Table of contents
Young people today have a high level of awareness of the major issues facing society. From the aging of society to problems in the job market to their own future prospects: Young people are rising to the challenges. Whatever comes their way – they look for a solution; they don’t get discouraged in the process.
Young people are aware of the aging of society and the problems associated with it. For the first time, the Shell Youth Study asks questions related to demographic change in society. The result: young people today have great respect for the older generation. They see their future prospects as more uncertain today than they were four years ago. Against this background, the family is once again gaining in importance. 72 percent of young people believe that you need a family to live a truly happy life. The current study shows that young people today have a stable value system. More extensively than in the past, the 15th Shell Youth Study looks at young people’s attitudes toward religion and church. Although today’s young people fundamentally approve of the institution of the church, they miss contemporary answers from it to important life questions that move them.
These are the findings of the 15th Shell Youth Study, which was presented to the public on September 21, 2006. The study was jointly written by the Bielefeld social scientists Professor Dr. Klaus Hurrelmann and Professor Dr. Mathias Albert and a team of experts from the Munich research institute TNS Infratest Sozialforschung headed by Ulrich Schneekloth. Commissioned by Deutsche Shell, the experts surveyed more than 2,500 young people aged 12 to 25 at the beginning of 2006 on their life situation, their beliefs and values, and their attitudes toward politics. For 53 years, Shell has commissioned independent research teams to publish youth studies, each of which provides an up-to-date view of the youth generation and its outlook on the future.
The great personal optimism still noted in 2002 has since given way to a somewhat more mixed view – the pragmatic generation identified in the 2002 Shell Youth Study has come under pressure. However, there is still no question of resignation and withdrawal into supposed youthful substitute worlds.
“Ascent instead of exit” remains the motto of young people. They are looking for individual paths and creating structures in which they can get ahead. Even though their prospects may seem bleaker than they did four years ago and the general conditions on the labor market dampen their personal optimism, they are not discouraged.
Education Determines The Future
School-leaving qualifications remain the key to success: young people from socially better-off homes attend more promising types of school than young people from socially more difficult backgrounds. The latter are often found at Hauptschulen and special schools and do not achieve the results that correspond to their potential even in subsequent training.
Young people at Hauptschulen are not quite as optimistic about the future as their peers at Gymnasien. The Shell Youth Study 2006 also shows that young people are much more worried about losing their jobs or not being able to find adequate employment than they were four years ago. Nevertheless, the search for individual solutions prevails.
Girls In The Fast Lane
The gender-specific trend is noteworthy in this context. Young women have overtaken young men in terms of school education and will continue to strive for higher educational qualifications more often in the future – a trend that was already indicated in the 2002 Shell Youth Study. In 2006, 55 percent of the girls surveyed were aiming for the Abitur, compared with only 47 percent of the boys.
As far as planning a family of their own is concerned, the pragmatic approach of the young generation is also evident here. The number of young adults who initially forgo having children and a family of their own is growing. It is not the case that young women do not want children of their own. However, they face a variety of difficulties in starting a family because education, professional integration, and partnership with starting a family are compressed into a very short window of time – the so-called rush hour of life. Young women are extremely sensitive to the problems associated with having children and advancing in their careers.
Family Gains In Importance
Support in the private-family sphere defuses tensions. In times of economic uncertainty, the family offers security, social backing, and emotional support. Almost three-quarters of young people (73 percent) aged 18 to 21 still live with their parents. Harmony at home is the order of the day: 90 percent of young people say they get along well with their parents, and 71 percent would also want to raise their own children in the same or similar way.
Great Respect For The Older Generation
The young people surveyed perceive the older generation in its characteristic diversity. On the one hand, there are the very old. This generation enjoys the image of the “up-and-coming generation” – their achievements earn them the respect of young people. On the other hand, there are the “young olds” – fit, active and open to new things. In principle, young people take a positive view of this. It only becomes problematic when the seniors interfere too much or become a competition – for example, with regard to seminar places at the university.
The young people interviewed see the growing number of old people to care for and integrate as the primary problem of an aging society. The prevailing impression from the interviews: The elderly, who have made the Federal Republic what it is now, should be well cared for. 43 percent of the young people surveyed believe that prosperity is fairly distributed between the generations. 34 percent demand that older people should cut back, while 12 percent state that younger people should reduce their demands. Young people today represent a desire for fairness and justice between generations.
No Renaissance Of Religion
Young people from all over the world were extremely present in the media both at the Catholic World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005 and at the death of Pope John Paul II. As a result, there is occasional public speculation about a “renaissance of religion” among young people. However, the current Shell Youth Study shows that most young people in Germany still have only a moderate relationship with church-religious beliefs. Only 30 percent believe in a personal God, another 19 percent in an impersonal higher power. In contrast, 28 percent of young people are distant from religion, and the rest (23 percent) are unsure about religious matters. It is typical of today’s young people that, while they fundamentally approve of the institution of the church, they are also highly critical of it. 65 percent think the church has no answers to questions that really concern young people today.
“Religion Light” Among Young People In Western Germany
While the vast majority of young people in the eastern states have hardly any connection to religion and the church, most young people in western Germany have a kind of “religion light. They assemble a kind of “patchwork” religion from religious and pseudo-religious set pieces. However, a secularized system of values is decisive for their way of life.
More “Real” Religiosity Among Migrants
The situation is different in the group of young people with an immigrant background, among whom “genuine” religiosity still has strong support. 52 percent of foreign young people believe in a personal God, compared with only 28 percent of German young people. Despite major religious differences, however, there are many similarities in the value orientations of young migrants, East Germans, and West Germans.
Further Upswing For Diligence And Ambition
The value system of young people shows a positive and stable orientation. Family, friendship, partnership, and personal responsibility continue to be “in,” accompanied by an increased striving for personal independence. Creativity, but also security, and order are rated as important. The virtues of diligence and ambition continue to be on the rise. This means that modern and traditional values continue to be mixed in young people’s life orientations.
In 2006, as in 2002, girls and young women are the more value-conscious sex. Orientations such as environmental and health awareness and social commitment are more important to them than to boys and young men. This also applies to the evaluation of relationships in the family and partnership, paying attention to one’s own feelings, and the evaluation of secondary virtues such as order and security. Girls and young women are nevertheless just as ambitious as boys and young men, although they are more competitive.
Interest In Politics And Political Parties Rises Slightly
Interest in politics remains low. Despite a slight increase compared to the Shell Youth Study 2002, it would be premature to speak of a turnaround. While the percentage of those interested in politics was 34 percent in 2002, it has now risen to 39 percent. Here, too, the different levels of education are noticeable: More than two-thirds of high school and college students classify themselves as interested in politics.
Adolescents’ trust in political parties and the federal government also remains low. For the majority of young people, politics no longer represents a benchmark to which they can orient themselves. However, this does not mean that young people do not have their own interests, which they also work to realize.
Rejection Of Political Extremism
Political positioning has not changed. In contrast to the population as a whole, young people on average place themselves slightly to the left of the center. The majority considers democracy to be a good form of government. Political extremism is clearly rejected. The basic rules of democracy, such as freedom of opinion and free elections, are undisputed.
Commitment To Others Remains At A High Level
Despite the low level of political interest, many young people are socially active in their environment. Commitment to society and to other people is a natural part of their personal lifestyle. 33 percent of young people say they are “often” and another 42 percent “occasionally” active for social or community causes in their free time. The level is comparable to that in 2002.
The focus is on a commitment to the interests of young people, for example in the context of meaningful leisure activities. In addition, there is a commitment to socially deprived or disadvantaged people, to better coexistence, or to security and order in residential areas or other specific issues. However, citizens’ initiatives, political parties and associations, and aid organizations play a subordinate role.
Here, too, the higher the level of education and social class, the more intensive the social involvement of young people. Young people’s attitude toward social activities corresponds to their pragmatic approach. It is not ideological concepts or social utopias that they pursue. Far more important is personal satisfaction – beyond grand designs or a new movement.
Europe And Globalization
Europe is still in: 60 percent still describe Europe as “in” compared to 62 percent in 2002. Compared with the Shell Youth Study 2002, however, the “Europe euphoria” has now given way to a somewhat more sober view. Young people criticize above all bureaucracy and the waste of money in Europe.
Only 19 percent of young people are in favor of Turkey’s possible accession to the European Union. 61 percent currently reject this, and 20 percent have no opinion on the matter.
Young people are increasingly critical of the process of globalization. What is striking here is that as many as 24 percent say they have not yet heard of globalization. Younger people in particular obviously still have a great lack of knowledge.
48 percent of young people assume that globalization will bring them both advantages and disadvantages. Eighteen percent point to advantages such as greater freedom of movement or cultural diversity. Disadvantages such as crime or unemployment – caused by globalization – are perceived by 27 percent of young people. Compared to 2002, this assessment tends to be somewhat more skeptical.
When it comes to exerting influence on globalization, young people place their trust primarily in organizations such as the EU or the UN. National governments are also seen as important in this respect. Critics of globalization such as Attac or consumer protection organizations are seen more as a corrective than as a shaping force. There is little trust in the USA or China as a possible future global center.
Methodology And Tradition Of The Study
With the 15th Shell Youth Study, Deutsche Shell is continuing its commitment to youth research. The energy company has been commissioning leading research institutes to conduct studies to document the attitudes, moods and expectations of young people since as early as 1953. “Young people are increasingly facing greater challenges,” says Kurt Döhmel, Chairman of the Management Board of Deutsche Shell Holding GmbH. “It is therefore important to find out how young people see themselves and their future in order to provide food for thought and discussion for politics and society.”