When it comes to employment, what are the concerns, goals and motivations of young people in the UK?

With that question in mind, MTV Knowing Youth recently conducted a survey of 200 people ages 18 to 24 in the UK who are either employed full-time or hope to be in the near future. The study consisted of 200 18-24 UK nationally representative respondents, who are either employed full-time or hoping to be in the near future.

So, what were the key findings?

  • Young people are concerned about unemployment. They believe this is an important issue for their generation and they worry about job security. They also believe it will get worse in the next 5 years. Frequent headlines about job losses plant seeds of doubt around job security.
  • If they were to be unemployed, young people worry the most about paying for housing, being stressed, and feeling depressed. Paying the mortgage/rent is their top anxiety surrounding the idea of long-term unemployment–but stress and depression are also key concerns.   Having money for clothes and a social life did not rank very high, painting a mature image for 18-24s. This was mainly driven by female respondents, however (males proved much more concerned about social lives than females!).
  • They think they’ll be worse off than their parents. Nearly 8 in 10 think that their generation will struggle with unemployment more than their parents, and only 20% believe they’ll be financially better off than their parents. As a result, only 21% believe their generation will be the most successful workforce yet. Despite this, they remain ambitious; the most important aspect of employment for them was career progression. Once again, they proved to be mature–saving money, gaining independence and buying a flat/house are the key reasons why full-time employment was important to them. This is probably results from living longer with parents due to rocketing living costs.
  • They’re not 100% sure the UK is the best place for their careers—especially males! Almost 4 in 10 feel they could have a more successful career abroad (particularly males, at 46%).  Just 35% feel the UK offers all the opportunities they need – not a vote of confidence! London has surprisingly little pull among this group– just 32% would prefer to work there. Many feel that not being in London would limit their careers, but they were put off looking for work there due to the high expense of living there. The city could be missing out on key talent as a result!
  • Better career advice would serve them well. Just 27% feel they received sufficient career advice by the time they left full-time education. It’s therefore no surprise that 4 in 10 have no idea what they want to do for a career in the future.  Despite this, the majority feel they have the core skills needed for full-time employment—the single most important skill needed being adaptable and versatile with change.  Interestingly, numerical and writing skills are very low down the list. (We wonder if employers feel the same!)
  • While they believe technology is generally positive for employment, the prospect of automation is a worry. They agree that technology has made searching for employment a lot easier (75%) and that it’s created jobs in the UK (65%). However, over half feel that technology could cause unemployment by replacing some job functions. If unemployed, respondents were divided on whether they would claim benefits. A very large number does feel that if claiming benefits you should work in some form, such as through charity commitments.
  • They see internships as positive and as a great work experience–but they must be paid fairly. Internships are popular with young people, with 1 in 4 claiming to have had one. They were seen as a very important introduction to full time employment (61%) and brilliant for the CV (75%). But there were concerns over pay – 59% believe it’s wrong to work for free as an intern and 41% think it’s wrong to work for less money as an intern. As a result, 66% agreed that internships can be exploitative.