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What young people think of the recession

A spiked survey of school students finds that they don’t like greedy bankers but they admire entrepreneurship.

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Topics Politics

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A spiked survey of hundreds of school students has found that, while young people are critical of the business and banking worlds, they have not given up on the potential of social and business entrepreneurship to lift us out of the economic crisis.

The survey suggests that young people have been influenced by the moralisation of the debate about the economy: many feel that society is too materialistic and that ‘greedy bankers’ are to blame for the recession. At the same time, however, they seem resistant to today’s pessimistic attitude towards innovation, instead viewing investment in science and technology as integral to future growth. They also seem healthily sceptical about the trend towards austerity measures: many believe that a government-enforced cap on pay is a bad idea.

spiked carried out the student survey as part of a report on risk-taking and innovation, produced in association with the PR firm Epoch. We surveyed over 300 London-based state-school students aged 16 to 18.

The students’ rejection of what they see as the prevailing immorality of the business world is overwhelming. Nearly 90 per cent of those surveyed agreed that ‘there was too much greed in the business world’. This moral reaction to business behaviour was reflected in their attitude to social values, too: 81 per cent felt that ‘too many people in society are materialistic’.

With such an overwhelming majority critical of the greed of businesspeople and the materialism of contemporary consumerism, it is of little surprise that 61 per cent were in no doubt that bankers, currently seen as the personifications of greed, ‘are primarily to blame for the recession’. This suggests a widespread disillusionment with the world of business and finance as it has existed in recent decades, and a desire for significant change.

However, while the students condemned the perceived greed of businesspeople, many seem still to value the idea of entrepreneurship. When asked whether ‘we need more entrepreneurship to get us out of the recession’, 64 per cent agreed that we do. Also, the students did not concur that ‘the government should cap the pay of high earners’: 50 per cent disagreed with the idea of a wage cap; 48 per cent were in favour of it. Though hardly a ringing endorsement of large salaries, this does suggest that youthful opinion is divided on whether a particular policy measure is required to deal with the pay of greedy bankers.

More striking still was the students’ support for innovation. A clear majority of 75 per cent agreed that ‘investment in science and technology is important for the growth of the economy’; only 23 per cent said such investment was not important.

The results of the survey seem to reveal an ambiguous, near paradoxical attitude on the part of the young to economic matters. A virtually uniform perception of the business world as rife with greed, and a widely accepted criticism of the materialistic values of society, coexists with a favourable impression of the value of entrepreneurs and the necessity of investment in high-risk science and technology ventures. So while young people do see the recession as a result of individual recklessness, this does not translate itself into an outright criticism of either entrepreneurship – historically the embodiment of the risk-taking spirit of capitalism – or profit-seeking investment.

Here are the survey results in full:

The spiked survey was carried out in association with Epoch. Read the full report here (PDF).

Read on:

What Future for Business: Risk-taking and Innovation After the Recession

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics

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