NEWS

Youths staying in family fold

They call themselves the «anxious generation.» Studies carried out in Greece since 1980 show that nearly half of the young people in Greece are afraid of the future; nearly all are more interested in themselves (90.1 percent) than in society (9.9. percent). The turning point came around 1980, when the collective spirit began to wane in favor of individualism. The spread of drugs and AIDS cast fear into youthful hearts. The collapse of the communist world at the end of the decade marked the death of ideologies and the beginning of the end of the social welfare state in Europe. Unemployment became the greatest fear, followed by the effects of environmental pollution and the appearance of epidemics. In a society developing rapidly on shifting sands, young people are now seeking a refuge within the family. Family During the 1970s, the family was the teenager’s primary battlefield; now it is his main refuge. The father and housewife mother bound together for life have given way to working parents and independent mothers, divorce and single-parent families. Nevertheless, the new family units are the only firm shoulder for young people to lean on. Today, seven in 10 young people live in the family home and this proportion is steadily increasing. Less than 10 percent live alone. Over half of all young people are supported financially by their family (58.4 percent); only 23 percent have permanent jobs and 6.8 percent temporary jobs. Very few receive some form of stipend (0.8 percent). Nearly all (99 percent) of young people say their relationship with their parents is good or very good, compared to 77 percent in the 1980s and 82 percent in 1997. Again, nearly all (98 percent) expect financial and emotional support from their parents. As for marriage, while only 10 and 5 percent of the women born in 1930 and 1960 respectively remained unmarried and the average age of marriage was 23-25, the number of women remaining unmarried, not only in Greece but everywhere in Europe, has increased among those born after 1960, although the average marriage age has increased by just four years. Education Education is the top priority. Within 20 years the percentage of tertiary graduates increased from 10 percent in 1983 to 16 percent in 1999. The number of high school graduates increased from about 40 percent in 1983 to 80 percent today. More and more young people are attending school, to the point where Greece is above the OECD average for the 15-19 age group (98.5 percent for Greece and 97.7 percent OECD average). At the same time, a considerable proportion of children are leaving school early to enter the work force without any qualifications. During the period of compulsory schooling, the dropout rate is close to the average (11-15 percent) but is higher in more senior grades. The dropout rate among tertiary students is also high, either because of the need to work or because the cost of studying away from one’s home town is too high. Of the 100,000 students who have entered a tertiary institution in another town, 16,000 will drop out. The State does not subsidize students and there is no student loan system. In a nationwide survey conducted in 1999 among pupils in first- and second-year senior high, it was found that 52.8 percent believe that the country’s education system meets their desires and needs only slightly; 27.1 percent said it does not do so «at all.» Employment Over the past 20 years, the jobless rate among young people has skyrocketed; nearly half of the registered unemployed are young people. The percentages in the 20-24 and 25-29 age groups (25 and 16 percent respectively) are much higher than the national average of 10 percent. In 2002, young people aged 15-24 comprised no more than 10.6 percent of the work force, due to the reduction in the work force generally and the fact that more young people are continuing their education. Just over a fifth of the student population has a steady job, in fact it is said that student status helps in searching for work. Studying for longer periods may create better prospects for a future career, but there is an inherent risk. The longer young people remain under their parents’ roof, the harder it becomes for them to enter the work force. The problem has not yet emerged in its true dimensions since young people are dependent on their families. But as pressure on household incomes increases, problems can be expected within the protective network, and a large number of young people could become socially excluded. Politics Today’s student population is in no way similar to their counterparts in the 1960s to the 1980s, who formed a strongly politicized sector of Greek society. These days, the variety of educational orientation and ways of entering the work force has led to a deep contrast. The formerly heavily charged concepts of Right and Left, Capitalism and Socialism, mean very little if anything to 80 percent of today’s young Greeks, for whom the prevailing concepts are personal freedom, social equality, democracy, ecology, profit, and modernization. About 56 percent believe that environmental protection should be a priority over economic growth, and 41.5 percent believe that a society should put emphasis on social equality and justice; just 16 percent are proponents of economic liberalism. However, there does not seem to be a trend toward ideologically cohesive groups. Over 70 percent of young people do not want to belong to a particular political category. Just 15.3 percent are in favor of collective action or social equality. Social values Family, work, personal freedom, love, friendship and education are now the catchwords for young people. Money, marriage, entertainment, and holidays are «very important» only for a minority. Young people do not present a united front regarding drug use and illegal immigrants, but all think they should be allowed to enter tertiary education en masse. Family is the most important thing for 90 percent of the respondents, marriage for just 39 percent. Belief in God is «very important» in urban centers (62.9 percent), even more so in smaller towns (78.7 percent) and farming areas (82.4 percent). About 43 percent are in favor of decriminalizing the use of soft drugs and two thirds in favor of deporting illegal immigrants. Money is «very important» for 58.7 percent of young people in farming areas and 59.8 percent in small towns, but just 40.7 percent in urban areas. Health Anxiety, emotional instability and neuroses plague over half of all young Greeks, although their mental health is generally good compared with those in other advanced nations, thanks to their high rate of extroversion (56 percent). In a 1993 survey on the behavior of teenagers aged 12-19, 8.7 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls showed a tendency toward emotional problems and 13 percent of boys and 29 percent of girls were evaluated as «depressed.» In 2000, these tendencies had increased to 33.6 percent for youths aged 18-24, most of whom live in Athens. Today, 50 percent say that at least once a week they feel out of sorts, that they get angry easily or behave badly. Around a quarter suffer from headaches and sleeping problems or feelings of dissatisfaction or loneliness. Nevertheless, the vast majority (88 percent) claim to be satisfied with their lives and their health (94 percent). Relationships Parents are the first to whom nearly half of all schoolchildren turn for emotional support; friends are the second choice for 65.3 percent. A quarter say they are self-sufficient, mostly when both parents work. This introversion may be interpreted as a lack of communication within the family, forcing the children into isolation. Although most describe family relationships as «good» to «excellent,» about 12.3 percent face problems with their father and 8.4 percent with their mother. Criteria in choosing friends are topped by good character, followed by understanding, common interests, and intelligence; in relationships with the opposite sex, half say they are searching for love, 18.9 percent sex, 12.1 percent equality, and 11.6 percent friendship.