Study on young Europeans: Worse off than previous generations?

For the seventh time, the TUI Stiftung has published its representative youth study “Young Europe”. The key aim of this regular study is to find out how Europeans aged between 16 and 26 look at their future, how they identify themselves with their country/region and the EU, and how they behave politically. On 12 October, the TUI Stiftung joined forces with TUI’s corporate office in Brussels, to organise a policy breakfast discussing the findings from the 2023 study, and how new generations can be better included in policymaking at European and national level.

Elke Hawatschek, Managing Director of the TUI Stiftung, Thorsten Faas, Professor of Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin, who provided scientific support for the study, and Jan-Christoph Oetjen, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) participated on the panel. Besides representatives from the European Commission, the Council and the travel industry, a delegation of European youth organisations (European Youth Forum, Federation of Young Europeans, Young European Federalists) attended the policy breakfast which was hosted by Tim Van Severen, Senior Manager International Public Policy & EU Affairs at TUI Group. 


Discussing the results from TUI Stiftung's youth study: The guests of the policy breakfast gathered in TUI's corporate office in Brussels.

The 2023 “Young Europe” study shows that pessimism among young people is on the rise. Europe’s youth nowadays is more negative about their future: 52 percent of the 7,000 16- to 26-year-olds surveyed in Europe think they will be worse off than their parents. This gloomy outlook is a trend that has worsened since the study was first performed in 2017. Looking ahead a sudden reversal of the trend is unlikely. Uncertainties due to climate change, the state of the economy or migration may have an important influence here.

High awareness of inequalities, and education as a key factor

Europe’s youth is aware of social disparities– regardless of their own economic prosperity. They have a strong perception of inequality: 74 percent see large differences between social classes, particularly in terms of income, career opportunities and education. Respondents state that access to education is the most important prerequisite for being successful in life, but just five percent rate the education system in their country as "very good". Furthermore,only 38 percent of young Europeans see educational opportunities for all. To this end, Elke Hlawatschek emphasized at the policy breakfast: “Educational equity needs to be a priority on the political agenda.”

Thorsten Faas, Professor of Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin explaining the study's results, for which he who provided the scientific support.

However, as addressed by Thorsten Faas, there are ways to change some of the negative perceptions of young Europeans: “Diversity is important. Parties are trying to deliver on this and once we reach a point where expectations around diversity and actual representation are bridged, we could expect this to contribute to a more positive outlook from young people.” And, as MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen added: “Politics are not always as quick as young people would like them to be. But things are changing. Not in all domains, but slowly parties and parliaments are becoming more diverse.”

Increasing support for Europe

Nevertheless, the study also provided some more optimistic insights: young people live in, for and with Europe. 59 percent of those surveyed consider that their own identity is more European than national. Europe’s youth also want the Union to grow closer together, with 43 percent of the respondents wishing for deeper integration.

What can politicians do to help strengthen integration and highlight the EU’s importance? MEP Oetjen stated: “As politicians we should encourage more positive communication about what the EU achieves for young people, whilst staying realistic in what we promise at the same time. We should emphasize the relevance of the EU for the daily life of people and focus on the topics which are of importance for young people. Positive communication will lead to better participation and in the long term perhaps even better perception of the political parties.“

About the youth study

Since 2017, young people have been surveyed online by the opinion research institute YouGov as part of the TUI Stiftung's youth study. The survey is conducted in Germany, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, and Spain, and since 2019 also in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The results of the study make an active contribution to giving young people a voice in the discourse on European policy.