The Next Normal: Southern Europe and the Economy

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

tnn southern economy

Of all the events that have shaped the lives of the Millennial generation, the global economic crash of 2008 stands out as the moment that has had the greatest personal impact on this generation.  The fallout of global recession has shaped the attitudes and expectations of young people in almost every corner of the world.

Southern Europe has been particularly badly hit, and with general elections in Italy scheduled for 24-25 February, we wanted to take a closer look at Millennials opinions around the subject of economy across three hard hit countries in Europe: Greece, Spain, Italy.

On average, 68% of Millennials globally feel the state of the global economy is of personal importance in their lives.

In Southern Europe, this rises to over 4 in 5 — 86% in Spain, 85% in Italy; and 80% in Greece.

With all the events that happened recently, including major government bailouts for banks and countries, it’s little wonder, that the state of the economy is uppermost in their minds and has taken a severe toll on Millennials in this region.

In terms of local events that have personally impacted on them, the ones that garner highest mentions are related to the economy, the austerity measures taken to deal with economic problems, protests against these measures and the overall fallout in terms of unemployment.

             Greece:

            High youth unemployment                              90%

            Protests against austerity measures              72%

            Italy:

            Rising youth unemployment                            87%

            Spain:

            Indignados movement                                        66%

What’s more, they feel things are continuing to get worse rather than better.  On balance, at a global level, slightly more young people believe the economy will improve over the next year or two – but not in Southern Europe:

Global average

Greece

Italy

Spain

% better

38%

27%

39%

23%

% worse

33%

55%

39%

46%

At best, in Italy the better vs worse scores are equal;  young Italians are somewhat more inclined to give the government of technocrats the benefit of doubt – they’re in a period of “wait and see …”.  Whereas in Spain and, in particular, Greece, the level of concern runs deep.

A similar pattern is true when we look at the things that young people worry about.  On average, 71% of Millennials around the world worry about money and this rises to 85% in Greece and 81% in Spain; but Italy if anything it is a touch below average at 68%.

However, when we look at the impact of the economy on job security, we see that it has created a legacy of fear about the future and this is the case in Italy just as it is elsewhere in Southern Europe.  Overall, young people are concerned that job security is likely to get worse rather than better, and we see this right across Southern Europe (though even more so in Greece and, in particular, Spain).

Global average

Greece

Italy

Spain

% better

21%

18%

31%

12%

% worse

49%

62%

45%

62%

Against this context of rising concern about job security, when asked the hypothetical question about which of a wide range of problems young people would like to solve it’s little surprise that solving unemployment emerged consistently as #1 around the world, mentioned by 54% in their Top 3 problems to solve.

The scores were higher again in Southern Europe:

  • Greece: 63%
  • Italy: 60%
  • Spain: 60%

And #2 in the three Southern European countries was ending the global economic crisis.

On average, 68% of Millennials around the world are worried about finding a job; in Southern Europe it’s much higher – not surprising, given youth unemployment rates surpassing 50% in some areas.

The Next Normal findings both reflect this and also demonstrate the extent to which this situation is affecting Millennial perceptions about what to expect from life.

Global average

Greece

Italy

Spain

% worry about finding a job 

68%

84%

80%

82%

% worry about not living up to my full potential 

67%

81%

70%

74%

% agree “I’m going to earn more money than my parents” 

73%

59%

61%

58%

% agree “it’s better to have a job paying minimum wage than to have no job at all 

78%

82%

84%

78%

 So to conclude, the impact of the economy is all pervasive and likely to have a lasting affect – hence “The New Normal”.  Today’s generation of young people is the first to have to face the reality that they will struggle to improve on the financial situation of their parents’ generation and they may have to settle for a job that pays the bills rather than a job that fulfils their personal hopes and ambitions.

In light of all this, we await with interest to see how the first wave of Millennials, now in their late 20s and even early 30s and in some cases becoming parents themselves, start to shape and influence the next generation coming through.

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