Uncertainty blights people’s lives
IYCW President Sarah Prenger at a rally for the IYCW Intenational Council in Aachen in 2016

The lives of many young Europeans are characterised by uncertainty, writes IYCW president, Sarah Prenger, at South World.

Young people are more often employed with precarious working conditions than older workers. On average, a third of young workers in the European Union in 2015 did not have a secure job.

They experience temporary agency work, commercial contracts and all manner of fixed-term contracts, from day-to-day contracts to zero-hours contracts. At the same time, the applicable employment law is not always complied with.

The following are examples of conditions experienced by young EU employees: “Even when I was still studying, I knew that it would be difficult to find work later; everyone on my course knew it. We all augmented our education with additional qualifications. I also do voluntary work, but it’s difficult. I live with my parents; there’s no other way. Many of my friends have emigrated to Australia, Canada or Dubai.” 26-year-old, Ireland.“I gained a Master’s degree in Renewable Energies. I obtained a fixed-term contract for six months on low pay.

Overall, despite European measures such as the Youth Guarantee and the European Solidarity Corps, the following statement by a young Irish woman encapsulates the feelings of today’s young Europeans:

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future.”

A criterion of Christian social doctrine

Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, one of the fathers of the Catholic social doctrine and founder of the Young Christian Workers movement, said pithily, “Every young worker is worth more than all the gold in the world”. This is the criterion by which a society should measure itself. Every person is called to build the Kingdom of God – peace, justice, solidarity – in their own environment.

On the one hand, every person is responsible for carrying out this mission. On the other, the conditions must be in place to enable people to fulfil these responsibilities. Every person should also contribute with their work towards improving the world.

To this end, participants of the European Seminar of the Young Christian Workers, YCW, in 2013, entitled “Talkin’ ‘bout my generation”, expressed a desire for “good work”, stating: “human health is more important than profit” and “the interests of employees are as important as the interests of employers.


Europe. The Tension of Being Young. Between Uncertainty and Responsibility (South World)

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