Beyond 2020: Global Youth – Voices & Futures

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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This article is part of our special report Global youth and post-pandemic futures.


As the world continues on its path of unparalleled social, political and financial uncertainty, we wonder, what will the future offer the youth of today? Deprived of previous years’ opportunity and seemingly infinite prospects of travel, study and work, what do the young adults of 2020 now dream of? At the same time, as a society we ask ourselves, how can we empower young people to take control of their lives in the face of such disruption? Where do we begin in creating the right support structures to enable the next generations to flourish?

These are the questions that inspired ViacomCBS, parent company of MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount and Comedy Central, and EU40, the Network of young Members of the European Parliament, to partner and seek long term systemic action, with only one goal:  empower today’s youth.

‘One out of three citizens in the European Union is 30 years of age or less, it is pivotal to include their perspective for the future.’’ said Alessandro Da Rold, Managing Director at EU40. ‘By bridging the gap between the civil society, different organizations and the young politicians of our network, we hope not only to inspire young people to speak up and change their realities, but also gain insights and learn about the numerous virtuous success stories that the youth put together, in times of need’. 

This process began with insights. ViacomCBS launched a global study to discover how the events of 2020 have shaped young people’s plans, beliefs and attitudes for the future: Beyond 2020: Global Youth – Voices & Futures.  Surveying more than 8,000 young people aged 16-24 across 15 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK, USA), young adults were asked for input on many different topics from health, climate change, politics and social issues, to travel, finance and relationships. 

Whilst the study discovered a civilly active generation who felt deeply impacted by the events of 2020, compelling them to value stability and security more than ever before, the findings unearthed some fascinating insights on their resilience, and their strong will to change the future for the better. 

Taking action towards a promising future

Young people feel a strong sense of responsibility to contribute to the solution and society’s recovery. Many confirmed to have begun to pivot and take action towards a more promising future, and just over half (55%) of the global youth saying that they are hopeful about seeing positive changes in the way we live over the next 10 years. 

However, young people are not idealistic dreamers. They demonstrated a strong sense of realism and consciousness that positive change does not come easy: 70% of respondents agreed “I feel uncertain about my future”, but more young people feel positive about their future, with 76% replying “I feel positive about my future” and 72% believe they “feel prepared to deal with whatever life throws at me”. Overall, young people are driven and know that they have the potential to make the world a better place, as 84% agreed, “My generation has the potential to change the world for the better”.

Climate change should be high on the world agenda 

Despite all the very important issues and challenges the year 2020 has seen, a key priority for young people remains the environment and the impact of climate change. In fact, when asked what the most important priorities for society to work on in the next 10 years are, the environment was top of the list for our global 16-24s.

But young people are also the strongest Foice fighting globally for a real change in society. From demonstrations to inspiring acts of civism, their individual commitment to contribute to the fight against climate change goes from recycling to being prepared to change travel habits. Three quarters of young people believe that “People will be more likely to choose environmentally friendly vacations” and an astonishing 39% agree, “I won’t fly due to the impact on the environment”. Overall, young people demonstrate once more to be responsible and motivated to positively impact the environment, but feel the need for high-level support from their communities to be able to drive real change.  

Society needs to increase support for mental health

One of the most relevant areas according to the young respondents was mental health. Indeed, this issue no doubt continues to worsen with consecutive lockdowns, especially for young people who long for more freedom and socializing. Young people believe health in general will experience the most long-lasting impact, with 75% of 16-24s globally agreeing that in particular “Mental health will be a major problem for society”. There is also widespread recognition that mental health will increasingly become a priority, as 83% agreed, “There will be more openness and acceptance of mental health issues”. Our youth acknowledge the significant and highly serious impact of mental health on individual and collective wellbeing. 

The study sheds light on the responsible global citizens our youth are today, and highlights that whilst they are driven and hopeful, they need commitment from institutions, industry and general society to feel they can create lasting positive impact. Despite their concern for stability and disrupted plans, the study found a strong sense of conscious optimism and an excited generation to make the most of what comes next.

Beyond 2020 uncovered key insights into how global youth perspectives and attitudes are shifting as a result of the uncertainty and change we all experienced in 2020,” said Christian Kurz, Senior Vice President, Global Insights. “This is the first step in understanding the topics that mean the most to our youth, which is where we must begin to work together to build a positive society that nurtures their ambitions and priorities.” 

All this is incredibly relevant…Therefore, we couldn’t sit on it! This is why we are tackling these important findings by bringing together a variety of players, during the digital event ‘BEYOND 2020 – Global Youth: voices and futures’ organized by ViacomCBS and EU40 in partnership with EURACTIV on 2nd February (register here).  We will be discussing youth’s core issues with politicians and public figures, young activists and changemakers, to explore these key findings, exchange experiences and understand concrete next steps. The virtual event will bring together EU politicians and officials from the European Parliament, European Commission and Council, industry stakeholders, trade associations, NGOs, youth associations, environmental associations, policy think-tanks and consultancies, with the aim to inspire and drive collective action. 

Aware of the significant work to be and increasing vulnerability of today’s youth without concrete support systems, ViacomCBS and EU40 remain dedicated to taking forward the important work carried out and, through multi-stakeholder collaboration, to driving positive long term action for the next generations.

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