what do young people want?

Meaning and ethics: This is what generations Y (born in the 1990s) and Z (between 1997 and 2010) demand in their relationship to work. A not negligible proportion of the graduates of the Grandes Ecoles – about 30% according to Arthur Gosset, a young engineer from Nantes who does not go to school (see his portrait below) – now refuses to consider a career in unscrupulous companies in the areas of environment, respect for employees or diversity. At the other end of the spectrum, young people with few or no qualifications mainly look for a job to support themselves. In fact, it is a mistake to consider “young people” as a homogeneous category. For Julie Bene, who conducted the study “Young people facing work, an ambivalent look reflecting inequalities” in 2019 for the INJEP (National Institute of Youth and People’s Education), “We tend to pit young people against other generations. This approach is too globalizing. The most socially gifted have the most favorable working situations, for example full-time contracts of indefinite duration, and are more sensitive to what is called the expressive dimension of work: having an interesting job, with responsibilities, useful to society. Young people in difficulty place more emphasis on job security. For them, this expressive dimension is clearly in the background.” One point that all these young people have in common, regardless of their professional situation, is the importance of work in their lives. “To say that the value of work has disappeared for them is not necessarily true. Moreover, this trend is not born with Gen Y and Z, contrary to what one might think. It already existed for previous generations. There have been articles on this theme of youth employment surveys since the 1980s. says Julie Bene. On the other hand, it is no longer the center of their existence, as it may have been for their parents and grandparents. Family, friends, hobbies are also very important. As sociologists Dominique Méda and Patricia Vendramin explain in their book Reinvent work(PUF, 2013), young people wear a “polycentric conception of existence” : their lives, their identity, their value system are organized around different spheres (work, family, leisure, etc.) which form a more or less coherent whole.

Teleworking and major layoffs

For the young people surveyed in the INJEP survey, work-life balance is either very important (51%) or important (44%). Largely opposed to being of social benefit in the context of work (29% and 59%) or the level of pay (28% and 64%). Since June 2019, the date of publication of this study, a new element has emerged: the health crisis, which deeply affects 18-30 year olds. Jean-Laurent Cassely, essayist and journalist, wrote in 2017 The Top of the Class Rebellion: Bullshit Jobs, the Search for Meaning and Urban Reconversions (arch). Five years and a pandemic later, he says this search for meaning still exists, but the Covid has reshaped the priorities of young graduates: “All HRDs I meet tell me the same thing. During a job interview, the first questions young applicants ask are “What are the conditions for teleworking? How flexible is your organization?” Some even get “full remote”. For young low-skilled workers working in service professions such as hospitality, e-commerce or health, the “second line”, we are witnessing a wave of layoffs. “These young people who were in a rush before the Covid took advantage of technical unemployment which gave them time to think. They began to rethink their jobs and their place in society. Some, demotivated, have not returned to their posts. explains Jean-Laurent Cassely. It’s not yet the Great American Resignation, with millions of Americans leaving their jobs dissatisfied with their jobs or pay as of July 2020. But the movement exists: 1,300 nursing students resigned between 2018 and 2021, according to Health Minister Olivier Véran who visited the hospital in Blois (Loir-et-Cher) on October 28, 2021. Hotels and restaurants lost 237,000 workers during the health crisis, according to to Dares (Direction for the Animation of Research, Studies and Statistics). However, according to Pôle Emploi, 40% of workers in this sector are under the age of 30.

The dream company: local and supportive

Faced with an uncertain future, young people turn to the state. According to the Crédoc survey, “Living conditions and ambitions January 2020 and January 2021”, 29% would like the government to help them find a job, an increase of 8 points for this indicator since 2020. But they expect that from the private sector? This is the subject of the November 2021 “Youth and Business” study, conducted by the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, Macif and BVA. First lesson: when we talk about business, the first term young people use is work (40%), way ahead of salary (12%) or money (14%). For 18/24 year olds, a company’s most important job is to create jobs and hire people (57%). Next comes its usefulness to society (19%) and providing resources to employees to develop professionally (15%). They are only 11% to say “anticipate social and environmental transformations”. The “climate generation”, represented by Greta Thunberg, is still very much in the minority. The widespread notion that today’s young people demand strong corporate engagement in social issues is tempered by the results of this study. Only 29% (but 40% of Bac+3) believe that today the company should make a priority commitment in favor of preserving the environment, 27% against racism and discrimination, 25% against inequalities between women and men and 22 % against inequality and poverty. Yet these young people have changed a lot since the 1980s, when the goal was to join a large group and build a career there. Their ideal company is mainly local (39% and up to 43% in the provinces), it is a start-up (26%) or an SSE (social and solidarity economy) (25%). The kings of the CAC 40 draw only 13% (but still 22% of Bac +3) of the respondents. Once hired, 18/24 year olds want the company to show them respect (58%) and trust (45%), engagement (17%) or exemplary (9%). Finally, a large proportion (43% and 54% for those who dream of the CAC 40) first look for a well-paid job, then an interesting activity (32%) and time available for their personal life (30%). Teleworking, popular during the health crisis, interests 4 out of 10 young people who want to have the opportunity to work from home a few times (42%). Faced with work, young people are both similar to their older people (with a good salary and an interesting job) and different (more values, a better work-life balance). As sociologist Patricia Vendramin points out in issue 86 of the magazine Agora Debates/Youth of October 2020, for these youth of 2022, “work continues to play the role of great social integrator”.

Arthur Gosset, the disruptive engineer (Nantes)

Arthur Gosset, 24, an engineer with a degree in environmental engineering from Centrale Nantes, will not be working in a multinational company. He is part of this generation for whom the match between his job and his values ​​is not open to discussion. In 2019 he realizes Break up, a documentary about the change of direction of students of the Grandes Ecoles in the light of the ecological and social issues of our time. It follows six young people who have chosen to live according to their beliefs and that “at all costs”. A year earlier, Nicolas Hulot was Minister of Ecological Transition, climate marches had brought together thousands of young people, 35,000 students ready to boycott companies that are not committed to the planet, even if it means making less money, had a manifesto signed. “One of my friends decided to do her second-year internship at an association instead of in a large group. His father stopped talking to him because it was a failure for him in his professional career. I wanted to talk about these choices and the fractures they can cause. explains Arthur Gosset. Since then, he has been organizing screenings in major schools, companies and associations to present these six courses to other young people wondering about their future. “There is an awareness in the Grandes Ecoles training the elite to re-adjust their courses by taking environmental and social issues into account” welcomes the young engineer. As for large groups, “not all of them necessarily understood that we are looking for useful and sustainable jobs” adds the neo-documentary. For him, there is urgency: according to a study by The Lancet Planetary Health September 2020, 75% of 16-25 year olds are afraid of the future and suffer from eco-anxiety. Between personal values ​​and fear of disappointing their loved ones, or being socially degraded, young graduates find it difficult to situate themselves. Arthur Gosset and his companion chose them. They have other documentary projects and start their own company to reconcile work and beliefs.

Chloé Coudray, the future enarque who wants to share the eco (Paris)

T La Revue n°9

Chloé Coudray, 24, graduated in law and economics, preparing for the ENA. She is also interested in economics and co-founded the think tank Partageons l’Éco, which aims to popularize economics in collaboration with the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. It publishes concept sheets, charts and articles on economic news. “I share the ambitions of the young people of today, but I am not out of sight with the large groups. I think it is possible to make them evolve from within” explains the young woman. For her, these big companies criticized by some are a pool of stability and credibility, in which young people can register their values. “It is a matter of acting internally to lead them towards the same goals of respect for the environment and ethics that today’s young people demand. In terms of housing, some urban planners recommend rehabilitating rather than destroying and rebuilding from scratch. The same method can be applied in these large companies” believes the future top official. But how to reform these large, highly hierarchical structures from within? Chloé Coudray believes that, after several internships in companies, young people are now being listened to: “We are becoming more trusted. I think we can be a source of inspiration that will influence decision-makers.”† As a student at the Sorbonne, she rubbed shoulders with rebellious students, “sometimes not measured and not very credible” according to her, which are built against these large groups. Should we expect a schism between graduates who refuse any compromise and those who agree to play the game? “The labor market is already polarized between the best qualified and those with fewer qualifications. There will undoubtedly be a second division of this type. I hope we will be able to work together so as not to create an intragenerational rift.” concludes the student.

Article from T La Revue n°9 “Working, is that really reasonable?” – Currently on newsstands and available at kiosque.latribune.fr/t-la-revue

T La Revue n°9