THE BLOG

The World's Young People Speak, Now We Need to Listen

17/11/2015 10:11 GMT | Updated 16/11/2016 10:12 GMT

There is a story going on every day that goes untold, the story of injustices against young people. It is for this reason that 18 months ago YMCA embarked on a mission to change this, to speak to young people all over the world to hear about their lives and dreams, their threats and fears.

This week, YMCA launches its findings from what has been one of largest pieces of global research ever undertaken into young people's views. Entitled One Million Voices, it has brought together the opinions of nearly 18,000 15 to 24-year-olds from 55 different countries.

And while you may think the concerns of young people growing up in the UK would differ greatly from those living in Armenia, Chile or Tanzania, the reality is that they don't. From developed or developing countries, urban or rural, the overriding concern of young people is centred on one thing: accessing jobs.

From our experience at YMCA in England, this concern is more than valid. For while UK job figures released last week showed continuing positive signs, the truth is that there are still more than 650,000 young people who are unemployed. What's more, this age group is also four times more likely than any other to be out of work. We believe this has to change but we are also aware that something much more fundamental must begin to shift first.

To make a change, these messages about job opportunities and other issues raised through our research need to reach the decision makers who matter across world. However, our results also paint another disastrous picture of young people not engaging in politics, civic engagement opportunities or local communities. In fact, well over a third of all young people we spoke to were not interested in civic engagement at all.

This problem has now become a vicious cycle: young people don't engage because they believe they don't have a voice and increasingly they aren't listened to by key decision makers because they don't engage.

But young people's disengagement shouldn't be mistaken for not caring and it is too easy to accept their current lack of involvement as inevitable and something we just can't do anything about. Youth empowerment is at the heart of YMCA, so we are trying to lead change so that young people no longer feel they don't want to engage with the individuals and organisations that influence their lives.

In total, 1.8 billion young people live in the world today and without a voice their most important needs will continue to go unmet and the injustices they face will persist. Through our One Million Voices research, we have and will continue to give young people of the world a platform to get their voices heard. It is now time for decision makers and those involved in working with young people to listen and act.