Employment: Are Young People less Engaged in their Work than their Elders?

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Employment: Are young people less engaged in their work than their elders?

JOB OF DREAMS:  Conditions of employment for the young are a determining variable

  • The Institute of Economic and Social Research (Ires) organized a conference Thursday on the theme of youth engagement at work.
  • Far from clichés, young people are as attached to the value of work as previous generations.
  • But the new forms of work lead them to adapt their look.

Some speak of generations “Y” or “Z”, completely connected to their smartphones but totally disconnected from the world of work. Today’s “young people” would be less attached to their jobs than their parents or grandparents, less willing to invest in a business, and would value more leisure than work. In short, the “young” would be a UFO compared to previous generations.

So many clichés deconstructed by the Ires (Institute of economic and social research) in its last review published in September and presented this Thursday, during a conference. “When we talk about work, many negative traits are associated with young people,” says researcher Julie Bene. But several studies show that the differences between generations are ultimately quite limited. Work remains a central value for young people. ”

Very normal young people

Based on a survey of 19,500 young people who finished their studies in 2013, Julie Bene remarks that “when they have to decide on their priority at the moment, only a minority (15%) choose outside of work, with the vast majority saying that it is more about their working lives (“finding or keeping a stable job” or “improving their working life”) “.

Similarly, the ” let’s talk work  ” survey carried out in 2016 by the CFDT with 200,000 workers, showed that young people (under 27 years old) were not so different from others. They are as likely as their elders to “love their business” (63%), or to report “having fun at work” (55%).


In addition, a field survey conducted by Diane Rodet, a researcher at Lyon-2 University, focuses on young workers “engaged” in fair trade, organic agriculture, or the Amap (associations for the maintenance of ‘peasant agriculture). Far from being demotivated and away from the productive world, these young people are happy to be able to reconcile their convictions with meaningful work.

Uncertainty, the new rule

All these examples show that young people are very far from being UFOs in the world of work. Nevertheless, they have some singularities because of the structure of the labour market. “The long-term establishment of a context of mass unemployment and policies purporting to combat it by the deterioration of employment conditions ( shorter contracts, less protective status) (…) have produced a form of a downgrading,” say contributors of the Ires. In these conditions, uncertainty has become a norm that is precociously internalized by young people “. Similarly, the development of self-entrepreneurship (bike delivery, VTC, etc.) also induces a new relationship to work.

This uncertainty can influence how one approaches one’s job. In a recent article in the World, the sociologists Dominique Méda and Patricia Vendramin indicate that “young workers must live in the short term (…) They must draw their own career path. Therefore, they do not have the same loyalty to the employer – which older employees interpret as a lack of motivation. It is difficult, for example, to give one’s best when one knows that his fixed-term contract will not be renewed, or that the rates of the requested mission are extremely low.

“The” young, or “young”?

Another important aspect must also be taken into account when talking about “young people” and work: the multiplicity of courses. “To be 25 years old, children and several professional years behind you is not the same thing as being 25 years old and finishing your studies,” says Marc Loriol, sociologist and researcher at the CNRS. Speaking globally “young people” is not always relevant.

Illustration with Julie Bene’s survey: “The most precarious young workers value less the good atmosphere at work than young people with a stable job,” she says. They are less sensitive to the very content of work and less concerned about the balance between personal and professional life. For them, what is important is to have a job first and foremost. The fact that it is interesting is secondary “. Between young people and work, we are therefore far from a fantasy misadventure.

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