A Look to the Future. Youth Barometer 2016

(In Finnish: Katse tulevaisuudessa. Nuorisobarometri 2016)

Sami Myllyniemi (ed.)


The Youth Barometer is a publication series that studies the values and attitudes of young people aged 15–29 years who live in Finland. The Youth Barometer has been carried out every year since 1994. The 2016 Youth Barometer is based on 1,901 telephone interviews and its theme is the future.

The future prospects, hopes and fears of young people were studied on a personal and a global level. Since the 1990s, the Youth Barometers have asked young people what they would like to achieve by the age of 35. Good personal relationships and work are still at the top of the list, but fewer and fewer want to own their own home, or have a car, their own family and children or a permanent job.

The future prospects of Finland were examined by asking the recipients to estimate the likelihood and desirability of various developments. In particular, the respondents want an improvement in security, equality, and the state of the environment, and the preservation of the welfare society, but faith in these future outlooks is clearly weaker. However, a considerable number of young people do not want the role of technology in people’s lives to get any greater, though they believe this is very likely. It is interesting and even surprising to find out that young people are against the technological development that they feel is unavoidable, even though they are always first in line to embrace this technology.

As a whole, the attitude to immigrants is increasingly positive and multiculturalism is considered ever more normal. More and more young people have friends with immigrant backgrounds and fewer consider the skin colour of their friends or being born in Finland to be important factors. Outright racist thoughts are very rare. However, at the same time fewer would like more foreigners than there are now to come to Finland. The trends regarding people with immigrant backgrounds and immigration policy are partly conflicting. Therefore it is important to distinguish between the attitudes to immigrants as people and the attitudes to Finland’s immigration policy lines.

One of the most important observations in the study is that young people’s cynicism and mistrust have increased rapidly. Young people’s faith in Finland and in other people has deteriorated rapidly in recent years. This development has been especially pronounced among boys. The decline in young people’s faith in other people, in Finland and in the world’s future could have far-reaching consequences for the welfare society’s values and future. If faith in the achievement of a good life fades, this may even endanger the legitimacy of society.

Out of the respondents, 83 per cent are optimistic about their future, but only 55 per cent believe Finland has a bright future and 25 per cent believe the world has a bright future. Faith in one’s own future is strengthening, but faith in the world’s future and in Finland’s future as a homeland has clearly weakened. Young people’s faith in the improvement in the economic situation of their own age group has also weakened rapidly. Over several generations there has been a development in Finland where each new generation is more affluent than the previous, but only about one in ten young people believe that their own and the next generation’s economic situation will improve.

A large number of young people are sceptical about the idea of continuous economic growth. Only 15 per cent of young people agree that people’s continuing wellbeing can be based only on continuous economic growth. Correspondingly, a clear majority of young people believe that continuous growth is impossible due to the Earth’s limited resources. As a whole, young people take environmental issues seriously. Of the respondents, 85 per cent believe that human impact on global warming is a fact and a corresponding share of young people believe that future generations will suffer if the destruction of the environment continues. However, it does not look like young people have fallen into despair as about half of the respondents believe that humans will find globally sustainable solutions for the environmental problems and 41 per cent believe that science and technology will be able to solve the environmental problems. The young people who are most satisfied with their lives have faith in a decent future and the fact that humankind has the ability and the desire to solve the problems that it faces.

The results of the Youth Barometer show that positive future prospects and faith in other people are very important factors for satisfaction with life. In particular, the young people who have faith in their own future, in the continuation of the Finnish welfare state, in higher living standards and the improvement of the state of the environment are satisfied with their own life. Optimism increases happiness, particularly among those young people who were experiencing flaws in their wellbeing at the time of the interview.