Britain’s youth are gloomy about their future

Britain’s young are deeply gloomy about building a prosperous future for themselves, says Young Enterprise and Opinium Research survey.

  • Almost 70 per cent of teenagers worried about debt.
  • Around half fear they will not be as well off as their parents.
  • Two in three believe success is closely linked to class.
  • Schools promote sport twice as much as employability skills, they say.
  • Mother is most important role model.

Almost 70 per cent of teenagers are worried about getting into debt and barely half (52%) think they will be better off in life than their parents, says an opinion poll from Young Enterprise and Opinium Research.

As the economy dips and youth unemployment rises, 56% say they are concerned about their chances of getting a job while a hefty seven in ten (69%) believe their parents’ circumstances, for example if they are rich or poor, will influence how far they can get in life.

A large majority, three out of four (74%), say they would like to start a business later in life. Yet only 27% say their school gave them lessons to help improve their employability skills – compared to 50% who report being encouraged to do sport. The overwhelming majority (74%) said schools put the main emphasis on exam performance.

This powerful insight into the hopes and fears of the current generation comes in a survey that interviewed 1,015 pupils between the ages of 14-18. It was conducted by Opinium Research for Young Enterprise, a UK charity which this year gave 220,000 young people a taste of the world of work and hands-on business experience.

It comes as the charity stages the final of its annual HSBC Young Enterprise Innovation Awards in London – the culmination of a nationwide competition in which 26,000 teenagers ran their own real firms for a year with help from business mentors.

Asked to name their top role model from a long list of suggestions, mothers emerge as the crucial influence on Britain’s teenagers, winning 11% of the votes. When the results are broken down by gender mums emerge as significantly more popular with girls (16%) than boys (7%). The next most popular role model is the star of BBC TV’s ‘The Apprentice,’ Lord Sugar (8%), followed by fathers who win 7% of votes from all teenagers, Steve Jobs 6% and Richard Branson 5%.

As to why mothers score so well, the survey gives some strong clues. Teenagers say they admire their mothers because ‘she has had a lot of good ideas’ (42%), and they ‘want to be like her’ (38%). Perhaps the secret of their success lies in the multi-faceted nature of motherhood – mothers score 31% under the category ‘other’ a far higher number than any celebrity and 10% more than fathers (21%).

Young people seem relatively optimistic about the age at which they will stop needing money from their parents. On average they expect to achieve financial independence at 22 years old.

Girls are distinctly more cautious about their prospects throughout the survey. For example, 74% of female respondents worry about getting into debt in the future, compared to 59% of boys.

Some 56% of young men think they will be financially better off than their parents in the future, compared to only 48% of young women. Overall, younger teenagers are more confident of being well off in later life than their older peers who are closer to the challenge of actually earning a living.

76% of males would like to start a business in the future compared to 74% of females. Asked how successful or unsuccessful their school or college had been at making them ready for the world of work young men were again more positive with 63% saying they had been successful compared to just 56% of young women.

As young people get older and closer to actually getting a job the feeling that their school was successful in preparing them for the world of work drops sharply. Sixty-four per cent of 14 year olds said school had been successful compared to 54% of 18 year olds.

Young people in college were the least happy with this aspect of their education, with 49% saying the preparation had been successful compared to 62% of those in school.

In a sign of our straightened times, young people are aware of their parents cutting back hard. Some 46% of teenagers said that their family was taking not as many holidays, 40% reported going out less, 37% going shopping less, 35% spending less on Christmas and Birthday presents and 28% reported their parents buying less food and drink.

Michael Mercieca, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise said: ‘This worrying survey reveals young people fear they face a growing threat of debt and unemployment. And yet at a time when more than 1 million of them are workless, schools are promoting sport almost twice as hard as employability skills.

‘It is also deeply concerning that young people feel their social class will pre-determine how successful they will be in life. High academic qualifications are needed. But schools should be giving young people the aptitudes that will help them shrug off class barriers and boost social mobility by helping them create their own jobs and businesses.’’

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