Thursday, 31 May 2012

Who are the Young Europeans?

Youth unemployment - as much as 50% in some countries - is one of the biggest probems facing the EU at the moment. Younger Europeans favor shifting the burden of solving that problem to the EU level, perhaps because they are losing confidence in their own governments. This is according to State of the European Union report co-author Per-Ola Karlsson, managing Director of Booz & Company Europe.

The next generation has hopes that the EU institutions can stimulate industrial policy and create new and more jobs...more so than their elders. The young also believe in prioritizing innovation via more spending on research & development and training, and they are less supportive on free trade issues than their elders. Low-carbon policies are also important to a younger generation in favor of policies supporting sustainability.

Young Europeans were keen to ensure that training is in line with what employers need - referring to today's skills mis-match between companies needs and those seeking jobs.

Today, cultural differences are merging with Euro skepticism, believes David Earnshaw, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Brussels.  It's about complexity, variety, difference, "messiness," he believes - a new kind of xenophobia and how young people feel about foreigners. "Today," he says, "individualism is killing the minimum amount of collective will we need as a collective society."

Protectionism & Nationalism on the Rise
Protectionism and nationalism are growing within Europe, especially between East and West, according to Philippe de Baeker, Member of the European Parliament. He says that young people with talent tend to leave this environment for places like the USA to escape perceived xenophobia.

A young European blogger, Michael Hansen, said today's youths are "citizens of the world" who just happen to live in one country or another and Europe needs to have better "brand recognition"  - getting the message out there about the European Dream...and how do we market that? He believes differences between cultures are breaking down rapidly these days because of social media.

Edouard Tetreau. a French investment advisor, said there are two missing words in the discussion with today's European youth: "dream" and "faith". If we don't solve the problem of youth unemployment in the next months we will not have an easy retirement time for these people. It's not about skills, it's about the mindset.

Tetreau had three propositions:

1. It's not about the prizes you win, it's about having big dreams: optimism.  Henry Ford said: "whether you think you can or not, you're right." It's the optimism of Churchill; It's choosing the way forward. Optimism is a choice, and we have to bring this optimism back to Europe and start to educate our children that there is a way forward.

2. A sense of belonging. What is it that we stand for? Our geography? Our past? No - it's about human rights, what we stand for, what we will fight for. We are lacking emotion.

3. Action - not in the future but now. We as business leaders can answer the question now: Do I hire this guy now? Do I take the risk? It's not only countries taking policies but companies.

Copyright INSEAD Knowledge 2012

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