Youth Study Southeast Europe Launch: Belgrade

INFO, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

On April 11th 2019, together with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung office in Serbia, the regional office of the FES officially presented the Youth Study Southeast Europe to regional stakeholders. This study, along with ten national studies, is the result of international research effort commissioned by the FES and carried out in early 2018 in ten countries of the region on a sample of 10 000 youth aged 14-29.

This project, which was modeled after the Shell youth studies in Germany, focused on understanding political values, attitudes, and beliefs of youth in the region, as well as their outlook on the future. The aim was to provide a point of departure for facts-based policy-making.

The event in Belgrade gathered journalists, policy-makers, researchers and civil society actors interested in youth issues in Serbia and Southeast European countries. It featured highlights from the regional study together with findings from the Serbian national report and marked a beginning of outreach activities that will be organized in the wider region for presenting the main findings to different audiences.

One of the highlights of the regional panel was the fact that youth overwhelmingly support the strengthening of the welfare state. So much so that they would be willing to support an assertive leader who could deliver on this agenda with a strong hand for the public good. However, researchers also pointed out that this motivation for welfare state support is rooted in youths’ desire to reduce the effects of economic insecurity. In terms of political attitudes and inclinations, this desire for more economic stability and security could very well result in support for either end of the political extreme that promises to bring their countries closer to the desired welfare state model. Youths’ readiness to lend their support to either end of the political spectrum is a message that needs to be taken seriously by political elites in the region.

While eager to participate in elections, youth do not seem to be ready to stand for a political office in order to deal with issues of insecurity. At the same time, alternative ways of political engagement are appealing to them as they express willingness to participate in online petition signing or volunteering.

Youth unemployment remains high across the region ranging from 12% to 43%. Coupled with worryingly high NEET rates (especially high for Albania, B&H and Kosovo) and anxiety engulfing those unable to get a job, the picture is one of insecurity and disillusionment. Looking into the structure of employment in terms of standard vs non-standard contracts does not leave much space for optimism either. Few young people who demonstrate a willingness to migrate have actual emigration plans.

Even though youth exhibit highest levels of trust towards their narrow circle of family and friends, they do show clear association with their European identity. The level of trust they have in EU institutions is substantially higher than their trust in national governments across the region. Europeanisation, as they see it, should be based on solidarity and go hand in hand with strengthening the welfare state. To them, Europeanisation is mostly associated with bringing welfare to the region.