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Europe. What a fatigue being young

Eurostat has just published a lengthy document portraying the situation of under-30s in all 28 EU countries. Figures should prompt reflection…

A 214-page document with numbers, charts, graphs, and information meant to give an overview of under-30 year-olds in Europe. “Being young in Europe today”, is the new “flagship” publication compiled by Eurostat, the statistics bureau of the EU, which illustrates the mode of living of this small population bracket on whose shoulders the future Europe is bound to repose. The research is divided into seven chapters that focus on demography, the family, society, health, education, access and participation in the job market, living conditions and information technology, areas whereby the EU has undertaken a consistent set of policies sensitive to the young. The publication re-proposes figures already adopted by the European Commission, focusing on the young. For Eurostat it’s important to show how young Europeans live, on the eve of the European youth days, celebrated from April 27 to May 10 with hundreds of initiatives and activities across European countries.

An increasingly ageing continent. In 2014, the EU population stood at 507 million people, of whom only 169 million (or 33.3 %) were children or young people (aged under 30). In 1990 the mean age was 35, in 2013 it became 42. “Although this ageing phenomenon has been recorded across the world’s industrialised societies, it has impacted the EU population more than others”, underlines the report. The smaller bracket is represented by children (aged 0-14), accounting for 15.6% of the overall population, 79 million inhabitants, 10 million less compared to 1994; while those over 65 amount to almost 94 million. Ireland ranks first with 22% of citizens under 15, followed by France (18.6%) and the United Kingdom (17.6), while Germany is last with 13.1%, closely preceded by Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, Hungary. Forecasts show a further decrease in under30 European inhabitants, expected to represent 30.8% of the overall population by 2050. Figures are expected to increase after this date, but in 2080 they will only amount to 31.2%, according to forecasts. The causes are low birth rates (the EU-28 fertility rate stands at 1.58%) and longer life expectations.

Family units. “The traditional ‘nuclear family’, composed of a couple with children, was seen to be in decline in the EU”, amounting today to 20.5%. One-parent families represent a third of all nuclear families, while 24.7% are couples without children. On average, young people were not inclined to leave the parental home until the age of 27 whereas young people in Sweden, Denmark and Finland left the parental home, on average, before the age of 23; Italians, Maltese, Slovakians and Croatians don’t leave their parental home before the age of 30. Approximately 23% of those under 30 are married or live together out of wedlock; in Finland the percentage increases up to 40% while in Italy and Greece is amounts to approximately 11%. It thus happens that either because of low marriage rates or because many decide to have their first child at a later age, the children born out of wedlock amount to 40%, (2011 figures, compared to 20% in 1990).

Life satisfaction. Young people tend to report high levels of life satisfaction (7.6 on average on a 1 to 10 ranking). Il 44% of youths has never taken part in organized activities (including sport, politics, etc.) The remaining participate in various kinds of activities, notably sport clubs (35%), leisure activities (22%); local organisations aiming to improve the local community (15%), cultural organizations (14%), NGOs (12%). Political organizations are at the tail end, attracting 5% of “involved youths”. The majority of young people (64) play sports regularly, with a prevailing number of males – women tend to be lazier. Infant mortality (below the first year of age), decreased along with that of those under30. Transport accidents are the primary cause of death (with a peak in the age-bracket 20-24); followed by “intentional acts of self-harm”, a figure that should prompt reflection. Men die in higher numbers compared to women, in this age bracket. A problem affecting 4% of youths is obesity. Young Europeans smoke (14% in the age bracket 15-29; 29% in the age bracket 20-24 and 33% in the age bracket 25-28), over half of them consume alcohol (with peaks among 90% of youths aged 15-24 in Germany and Estonia to 60% in Portugal and Romania). Nine out of ten youths daily use the Internet, most of them through their phone connection. They go online especially to take part in social networks (82%) and to consult wikipedia or seek information (65%).

Hot issues: work and poverty. The two most problematic areas are work and child poverty. In 2013 13% of youths aged 15-24 and 30% of those aged 25-29 did not work nor study. There is a large gap in terms of genders. Out of all those who completed their education in the period 2008/2013 an average of 73% found a job (88% in Holland, 84% in Austria, 60% in Austria, 50% in Italy). The other worrying data comes from the analysis of the “living conditions”. 3 in 10 children (27.6%), namely, 26 million) are at poverty-risk or of social exclusion in the EU, while 10-12% are in a state of material poverty. (F.L.)

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