Youth Barometer 2009

(In Finnish: Taidekohtia. Nuorisobarometri 2009)

Sami Myllyniemi
Youth Research Network & Advisory Council of Youth Affairs 2009

The Youth Barometer is an annual publication published since 1994 by the Advisory Council for Youth Affairs, discussing the values and attitudes of young Finnish people between the ages of 15 and 29. Since 2004, the Youth Barometer has been compiled in co-operation with the Finnish Youth Research Network. The 2009 Youth Barometer is based on 1,900 telephone interviews carried out in April and May 2009. The comparison of these results with earlier Youth Barometers provides follow-up data on the changes in young people’s attitudes since 1994, that is spanning a period of 15 years. In addition to the regular themes, each year’s publication also has a changing, topical theme.

This year’s theme is arts and culture. The telephone interviews provided information on young people’s participation in artistic and cultural activities and their experiences of art and culture and their experiences of and their attitudes towards art and culture. The survey did not focus on young people as mere consumers of culture; rather the aim was to shed light on young people’s own cultural activities. The intention of the interviews was to avoid unnecessarily focusing on the established forms of culture, or “high-brow” culture.

The commonest forms of creative activities included crafts, music, photography, drawing and other visual arts, each of which is a hobby for 20 per cent of the young population. Playing a musical instrument is different from other creative pursuits in that it is usually done on a very regular basis, so out of all the activities charted in the survey it can be regarded as being the commonest form of creative activity among the young. In contrast, the least common hobbies were circus, graffiti, comics and drama, which are pursued by only a few per cent. The respondents were also asked about their participation in creative activities other than those mentioned in the questionnaire.

The responses reveal how wide the concept of creativity is. For example, physical exercise is often considered creative. Two-thirds have at least one creative hobby, and 40 per cent have several. A little under 10 per cent are cultural multitaskers, and have as many as five or even more different artistic hobbies. The majority of creative hobbies are pursued at least once a week, but there is great variety in how regularly the respondents attend these activities. Those who invest most actively in their hobby also play an instrument or sing. More than one-third of them spend time on their hobby every day. Young women in general have more creative interests and they pursue them on a more regular basis than men. Under 20-year-olds were engaged in their creative interests more regularly than others.

Simultaneously with surveying the forms of creative activities young people participated in, the respondents were also asked about their possible wishes or plans to participate in such activities. In the case of every form of creative hobby, there was more interest than actual participation. The ratio between participation and the desire to participate varied substantially from one activity to another. In crafts, writing and the visual arts, the amount of unrealised potential was fairly small, while in the case of circus, drama or graffiti the number of respondents who would like to participate was many times larger than that of actual participants.

The commonest reason for not being able to take on a hobby was lack of time. More than a third of young people feel that there is not enough time to participate in all the hobbies that interest them. Another significant factor preventing the pursuit of a creative hobby is costs: approximately one-quarter of the respondents cited the expensiveness of a hobby as an obstacle. Another major hindrance was the lack of opportunities to engage in a specific hobby in one’s home locality. The lack of offering was the greatest in the Province of Lapland, and it concerned mostly those who wished to take up acting, dance or circus.

Clearly the most important reasons for young people to pursue artistic or cultural hobbies were the joy, experiences and sense of accomplishment to be derived from them. Important also were the opportunities for self-expression, creating something new and learning new skills and gaining new knowledge. Social reasons also play a role – doing things together, meeting friends and making
new ones were important for approximately half of the respondents. In contrast, gaining publicity was an important reason for approximately one in ten, and the pressure from family or someone else for even fewer.

The survey also investigated the encouragement young people received to participate in an artistic or other creative activity. The encouragement of parents and friends was crucial and three-quarters felt they received sufficient support from them. One-quarter of the respondents said they had neither expected nor received any encouragement from a youth worker or a supervisor of the artistic hobby, but more than onethird felt that they had not received sufficient support from them, even if they had sought it.

When asked how much creativity they felt they could express in various places, the company of friends and the home surpassed hobbies as an outlet for creativity. The majority felt they could also use their creativity, at least to some extent, in their studies or job and through shopping and consuming. Young people’s view of creativity is, in other words, quite wide reaching and casual.

The respondents were also asked about their views on the meaning of art. First of all, young people think that art is about creating experiences. More than two-thirds find that art opens up new perspectives to the world and acts as channels for expressing critical views. The role of art is not, however, limited to generating new experiences and perspectives, and a clear majority believe that art can influence societal issues. A majority of young people also think that art need not be useful in any way, it is a value in itself. Those who see art as an intrinsic value are also more inclined to believe in the power of art to make a difference. Approximately one-quarter of all respondents thought, however, that art has no significance.

The most central cultural services in terms of young people’s leisure time and life in general are concerts,
the library and television. The most important ones of all are concerts and gigs, which are at least relatively important to nearly four out of five. The strong role of libraries also became evident in the survey. In addition, four out of five think that the services and collections of libraries meet their expectations and needs well. Generally, the significance of cultural services in the life and leisure time of young people has increased in the past ten years. A similar trend has been observed in theatre and museums as well as in symphony and chamber music concerts. The survey material
reveals a clear connection between the number of creative interests and the appreciation of cultural services.

In the survey, creative activities also included body culture, and here specifically one’s own body as an object of aestheticisation and transformation. According to the survey, 18 per cent of young people have one or several piercings, while 13 per cent have one or several tattoos. Piercings are commoner among girls than boys, while there is no difference between the sexes with regard to tattoos. Four out of five respondents who had a tattoo had got it after long consideration and only a few per cent on the spur of the moment. For the majority, tattoos bear a deeper meaning, while one-fifth thought they are merely decorative. To improve their physique, 18 per cent of young people have used nutritional supplements, and 10 per cent had done so in the past month. Improving physical performance was a more important reason for taking supplements than improving physical appearance. Less than half a per cent reported having used or tried doping substances.

Questions about the relationship between culture and society were also asked from a control group of respondents aged 50–55 years. The differences between young people and the control group were not considerable, and a great majority of both young and middle-aged people are proud of the achievements of Finnish cultural life, find that foreign influences have enriched Finnish culture and hold library services in high regard. The most noticeable differences in views were in those about graffiti and the free distribution of music over the Internet, towards both of which the older generations have stricter attitudes. A great majority of young people see graffiti more as a form of art rather than as a crime, and are in favour of legally designated sites for graffiti. On the other hand, the free distribution of all music over the Internet has more opponents than supporters among the young.

The generational aspect was approached in the Youth Barometer from a variety of angles. By comparing the answers given by the respondents from the two groups to the same question, it was possible to detect attitudinal differences. In addition to this, the respondents were asked to predict how similar or different the views of the respondents from the other age group would be compared with those of their own age group. The group of young respondents assumed that the views of the older age group would be closest to their own in questions regarding Finnishness and work and employment. By the same token, they assumed that the older generation’s view on immigration, leisuretime activities and the use of the Internet would differ the most from their own. The assumptions of the older respondents group about the views of the younger generation were similar, although as a rule, the young respondents expected the differences in views to be smaller than the older respondents group did.

Respondents from both age groups were also asked to define the age at which a person is an adult. For young people, institutional transitions, such as reaching the age of majority, completing studies, having a child or moving out of one’s parents home, were clearly more significant criteria for coming of age than for 50- to 55-year-olds. However, the young respondents also thought that more important signs of coming of age are factors related to personal events in life, such as taking responsibility for one’s own decisions or knowing what one wants from life.

Young people’s attitudes towards the world of work have probably been the most central theme in the Youth Barometer throughout its history. The interviews were made during an economic recession, when youth unemployment was soaring, which may explain the escalating change in attitudes towards work compared with previous barometers. Young people’s opinion about the importance of work seems to grow weaker, but still more than two-thirds would rather accept even temporary jobs than live on the unemployment benefit, as long as the net income would this way be higher. The share of those who see unemployment as an adversity has increased from two years ago. At the same time, the world of work is seen as less demanding. In the current difficult economic situation, young people are more concerned about whether they will have a job in the future than whether they will cope in the world of work.