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Youth Solidarities and Generations of XXI Century: Meaning of Labor and Consumption

Priority areas of development: sociology

Goal of research: the comprehensive study of the meaning and value of labor and consumption for the urban youth in the XXI century and the comparison of attitudes toward work and consumption of 2 generations of young people (20 years old and 30 years old).

Methodology: secondary data analysis, in-depth biographical interviews.

The project was implemented in two stages. The secondary data analysis was conducted in the first stage of the project (with the data collected in previous projects of the Center for Youth Studies). In the second stage the new data were collected (biographical interviews). This data allowed us to analyze the work and consumption attitudes in the group of youth working in different professional spheres.

Empirical base of research: During the implementation of the project several data collections were prepared for secondary analysis.

  • An array of qualitative interviews conducted with the residents of St. Petersburg and Ulyanovsk (more than 120 in-depth interviews  for all years);
  • Data of quantitative surveys of young people in Saint-Petersburg and Volga region (3 arrays: 1200 people. (2013), 1335 persons. (2010), 400 people. (2009));
  • case study data (more than 25 cases over the years)

The obtained data were re-analyzed and reinterpreted in the light of the new goal: to study the value of labor and consumption in the lives of young people in two generational groups (20-year olds and 30-year olds).

At the second stage of the study, we collected new in-depth biographical interviews with 60 young working residents of Saint-Petersburg. Men and women are equally represented among them (30 people from each sex). Two age groups have also participated in the study (30 people at the age of 20-25 years and 30 people at the age of 30-35 years). The key criterion for selection was the specificity of employment of the informants.

Three groups of young people have been highlighted.

First group - is market sphere employees (young people working in the organizations of big and medium businesses on permanent basis).

Second group - is budget sphere employees.

Third group - is self-employed (so - called freelancers and individual entrepreneurs which have their own businesses, with 5 employees maximum).  20 interviews have been taken in each group.

Results of research:

The secondary data analysis allowed us to allocate some characteristics that are common for the Russian big and regional cities youth. (1) Professional realization composes a significant part of youth life plans. (2) Flexibility, willingness to take risks, the sense of freedom in decision-making, institutional involvement, mode of work, individual responsibility and the development of personal qualities are the key measuring tools for life-style strategies of the youth in the labor market. (3) Multiple employment is common trend on the modern labor market. (4) Young people appreciate both sides of labor: the material value of work and its aesthetic cognitive and educational values. (5) Professional success in the context of the perfect future idea regulates the other most significant goal for young people. This goal is to have family and have kids. The presence of high stable income is the most important requirement for both partners besides mutual feelings. (6) The necessity to demonstrate social "correctness" in the life style appears not only in real consumer practices, but also in verbal translation of symbolic images of a successful person.

The primary analysis of biographical interviews with young residents of St. Petersburg working in business, state budget organizations and self-employed, allowed us to observe how the results of a secondary data analysis of the general style tendencies implement in concrete biographies, and depend on the character and sphere of employment. The most important results are the following:

(1) The analysis of urban youth attitudes reflects the dynamics in modern Russian labor market, as well as global trends of work attitudes transformation in post-industrial world; (2) Age differences that have been discovered in the study are explained by different life stages of the young people. T he informants of the younger age group are still experiencing some stress of the introduction to labor market. Young adults after 30 years have been already summarize their experience.  Young adults after 30 years are on peak of life problems solutions. These life problems consist ofchild-bearing practices and domestic cares. (3) The next formula of the youth work expectations is the main conclusion of the youth labor paths analysis: “For young people the work should be interesting and not boring, it should be well paid, it must be meaningful and thus must leave a certain sense of freedom”. (4) The individuation of youth working strategies appears in the fact that modern youth early learn to defend their rights.  If young people are not satisfied with their work, they easily break up with it. (5) For most young people there is no plan to work in one organization during the whole life. They changed their work and specialization repeatedly by the age of 30 (this tendency is true for informants working in different spheres). (6) The employment in budget sphere is chosen by young people motivated to work according with their professional skills that they received within the framework of university or college education. For self-employed and in some cases for employees from big and medium-sized businesses, education does not have the "professional" values as for budget sphere employees. (7) Search for jobs for budget and business sphere employees is carried out through close friends, relatives and official channels. This is very different from the search for jobs of the self-employed. Self-employed young people rely on week social ties (casual acquaintances, customers) in job searching process. (8) Career path of the budget sphere employees can be characterized as a "future-oriented”. That is also different from “presentism” of freelancers. (9) The majority of youth understand the success in society in a way of public opinion stereotypes on a successful person (money, wealth, and other markers of living standards). Personal success has been interpreted in different ways and often fundamentally coincided with normative samples - the core of success for most of youth - it's an interesting job and the possibility of self-realization. (10) Consumer practices of young employees in business sphere identified by the general trends of youth consumption and by the successful implementation of their career, family traditions of consumption and financial support. (11) The parents are still playing a significant role of assistant and resource base supporting the consumption for employees from budget sphere. These young people are homogenous consumer group in the selection of clothing and equipment. Their consumer choices are spontaneous and inertial, but not innovative.  (12) Consumption behavior of self-employed youth is determined by three key strategies: "planned and pragmatic", "hedonistic" and "demonstrative."

The use of meta-ethnography allowed us to identify five types of labor trajectories of young people involved in different youth solidarities: professionalization of hobbies, alternative employment, professional employment based on experience of participation in solidarity, the use of capital received in the space of solidarities for future careers, search for "suitable work" according with solidarity background. Two main strategies of consumption have been allocated in the context of participation in youth solidarity: subcultural and ideological consumption.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

Several recommendations have been formulated based on research findings. These recommendations can be implemented at the level of realization of youth and educational policies of the Russian Federation and in the practice of private companies.

  • It is recommended to create institutional support of the employment opportunities for students by forming flexible study schedules and by the reduction of study load. Much more attention should be paid to the creation of educational programs that develop communicative competence and skills of self-organization of the young people.
  • Flexibility is one of the major expectations from the employee in modern labor market. Young workers of the generation Y are heterogeneous group, but they have common features. They recognize freedom, pleasure, passion, status, stability and money. It is recommended for employers to provide at least one of these conditions in the workplace and then the young people would be ready to reach a compromise and to seek the satisfaction of other needs outside of work (e.g. hobby).
  • There is a segment of young people among the younger generation for whom work in the budget sector remains attractive by its social orientation, non-profit orientation, stability, and high status. In order to keep young people in this sphere it is necessary to continue efforts towards improving the social status of public sector employees, as well as providing social guarantees. It is necessary to continue the development of programs to support youth entrepreneurship as well as create infrastructure for development of small businesses.
The results of this study provide important and relevant material for the development of programs in the field of youth policy: these results can be applied in different fields of youth policy. The data of this research can be used by a wide range of specialists in the field of social projects aimed at employment, as well as the efficient use of labor potential of young people in the labor market.


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