Young Britain: A halfway house between America and Europe

Sensible, hardworking, decent, tolerant, interested in families and lifestyle rather than politics and world affairs - it has been an attractive and encouraging portrait of Britain's youth which has been examined in this newspaper over the past week. But how well will this generation - to judge by the attitudes it seems to hold - be fitted to the changes which will take place in the world during the next quarter century?

Try some tests. Let's lump the forces for change that will affect this country into five groups - demography, the environment, globalism, technology, and government/society - and see how prepared the next generation is for change.

Start with demography, for the ageing of all developed countries will be one of the most pervasive forces driving change. Britain happens to be ageing rather more slowly than countries in continental Europe, in the sense that the proportion of over 65s will grow more slowly than elsewhere. But the fact remains that a smaller generation of people of working age will have to support a larger number of pensioners. So there will be great pressure on the present generation of young people to be in work all their lives, save for their own retirement, and almost certainly retire later.

Looking at the responses of the survey, it looks as though this message has already struck home. Many young people are already in some kind of part-time work while they carry on their studies, adopting the US model of the labour market rather than the Continental one. One of our headlines during the week suggested that it was "All work and no play in the stressful Nineties". Demographic forces alone will see to it that this generation will be kept hard at work - but at least it seems prepared for this.

The next 25 years will certainly see rising concern about the damage that we are doing to the environment. Here there seems to be a gap between what they say and what they do - a trait not unique to the young. The young talk pale green, but only pale: Swampy is not a hero. One of the most striking features was the love of the young for the car and in particular the freedom it brought. If the successor to the internal combustion engine comes along in the next couple of decades, the young will doubtless welcome it. But they will still want to travel in cars and planes.

Globalism seems to be taken as a given: a process which is inevitable and should be welcomed in its many forms. Nationalism, certainly in its more aggressive forms, seems on the wane. The young have no truck with racism, accepting that one aspect of globalism means people working in different countries. As for the impact of globalism on jobs, the young seem to accept that international competition will mean that jobs will inevitably be less secure. But their response is to try to increase their skills and be flexible about changing jobs, rather than think that globalism should be reversed.

Technology: unsurprisingly the young are comfortable with technology, for this is the generation which is witnessing a sudden leap forward in the electronic technologies - technologies which will transform the workplace over the next generation. They own a lot of electronic kit, for a start: CD players, home computers and the like. They also recognise one of the key changes that technology is likely to bring, more people working from home. There was little or no fear of the ways in which technology might be malign.

Finally government and society. Here it is much harder to be certain about the nature of change. We can be sure of demographic change, of rising environmental concerns and so on. But what happens to government and to society is not only less clear; it crucially depends on the attitudes of the next generation of voters, like the young who answer these surveys.

As far as attitudes to government go, there is a clear demand that more attention should be paid to education and the health service. This can either be interpreted as support for policies of the Liberal Democrats, the only party which said it would raise tax at the last election, or that the young show the same pattern as their parents, saying they want more money spent, but not more tax to fund it.

Thus when asked how the government should raise additional money the top four answers were the lottery, taxing high earners, raising taxes on business and selling off public services. Less than a quarter wanted a rise in income tax, and only 13 per cent a rise in VAT. One disappointment that the young may have to face is that they will have to pay higher taxation even to support the level of services they at present experience, and which they don't think are good enough.

But maybe there will be other big changes in society which reduce the burden on the Welfare State. One of the most interesting responses was the extent to which the young value family life. Most want to get married, though they are not judgmental towards people who do not, such as single parents (though many think it should be made harder to get divorced). Top worry is unemployment, but that is closely followed by drugs and crime. The young want families; they want order. But they want it without the strong moral overtones evident in the US - though two-thirds think of themselves as Christian.

To generalise, it is as though our young have become American in their economic attitudes (get a job, work hard and enjoy spending the rewards) but European in their social attitudes (accept a big role for government, and be generally liberal in their attitudes to others). And maybe that is where these people will take the country: to a half-way place between America and continental Europe, reflecting some features of each society but being different from either. It is not a bad model, and certainly makes for an interesting Britain a generation hence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living