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what do young people want?

Meaning and ethics: this is what generations Y (born in the 1990s) and Z (between 1997 and 2010) demand in their relationship to work. A non-negligible proportion of graduates from the Grandes Ecoles – around 30% according to Arthur Gosset, a young engineer from Nantes who is out of school (see his portrait below) – now refuses to consider a career in unscrupulous companies in terms of the environment, respect for employees or diversity. At the other end of the spectrum, young people with little or no qualifications are primarily looking for a job to support themselves. In fact, considering “young people” as a homogeneous category is a mistake. For Julie Bene, who carried out in 2019 the study “Young people facing work, an ambivalent look reflecting disparities” for the INJEP (National Institute of Youth and Popular Education), “We tend to oppose youth to other generations. This approach is too globalizing. The most socially endowed have the most favorable employment situations, full-time permanent contracts for example, and they are more sensitive to what is called the expressive dimension of work: having an interesting job, with responsibilities, useful to the society. Young people in difficulty put more emphasis on job security. For them, this expressive dimension clearly takes a back seat.” A point common to all these young people, whatever their professional situation, is the importance of work in their lives. “To say that the value of work has disappeared for them is not necessarily true. Moreover, this trend was not born with Gen Y and Z, contrary to what one might think. It already existed for previous generations. We find articles on this theme of the questioning of work by young people since the 1980s. says Julie Bene. On the other hand, it is no longer the center of their existence, as it may have been for their parents and grandparents. Family, friends, hobbies are also very important. As sociologists Dominique Méda and Patricia Vendramin explain in their book Reinvent work(PUF, 2013), young people carry a “polycentric conception of existence” : their life, their identity, their system of values ​​are organized around several spheres (work, family, leisure, etc.) forming a more or less coherent whole.

Telecommuting and Great Resignation

For the young people questioned in the INJEP study, the balance between professional and personal life is very important (51%) or important (44%). Largely ahead of the fact of being useful to society in the context of one’s job (29% and 59%) or the level of remuneration (28% and 64%). Since June 2019, the date of publication of this study, a new element has emerged: the health crisis, which has deeply affected 18-30 year olds. Jean-Laurent Cassely, essayist and journalist, wrote in 2017 The revolt of the top of the class: bullshit jobs, the quest for meaning and urban reconversions (Arkhê). Five years and a pandemic later, this quest for meaning still exists according to him, but the Covid has redirected the priorities of young graduates: “All the HRDs I meet tell me the same thing. When they arrive at a job interview, the first questions from young applicants are “What are the conditions for teleworking? What is the level of flexibility of your organization?”. Some even get “full remote” (full-time remote). For young low-skilled employees who work in service professions such as catering, e-commerce or health, the “second line”, we are witnessing a wave of resignations. “These young people who were in a hurry before the Covid benefited from technical unemployment which gave them time to think. They began to reconsider their jobs and their place in society. Some, demotivated, have not returned to their posts. explains Jean-Laurent Cassely. It is not yet the Great American Resignation, which from July 2020 saw millions of Americans dissatisfied with their work or their salary leaving their jobs. But the movement exists: 1,300 nursing students resigned between 2018 and 2021 according to the Minister of Health Olivier Véran visiting the hospital in Blois (Loir-et-Cher) on October 28, 2021. hotels and restaurants lost 237,000 employees during the health crisis according to Dares (Direction for the Animation of Research, Studies and Statistics). However, 40% of employees in this sector are under 30 years old according to Pôle Emploi.

The dream business: local and supportive

Faced with an uncertain future, young people are turning to the state. According to the Crédoc survey, “Living conditions and aspirations January 2020 and January 2021”, 29% would like the public authorities to help them find a job, an increase of 8 points for this indicator since 2020. But that do they expect from the private sector? This is the subject of the November 2021 “Young people and business” study carried out by the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, Macif and BVA. First lesson: when we talk about business, the first term used by young people is work (40%), far ahead of salary (12%) or money (14%). For 18/24 year olds, the main role of a business is above all to create jobs and hire people (57%). Next come its usefulness for society (19%) and giving employees the means to develop professionally (15%). They are only 11% to mention “anticipating social and environmental transformations”. The “climate generation” represented by Greta Thunberg is still very much in the minority. The widespread idea that today’s young people demand a strong commitment from companies in societal matters is tempered by the results of this study. Only 29% (but 40% of Bac+3) believe that the company must today make a priority commitment in favor of the preservation of the environment, 27% against racism and discrimination, 25% against inequalities between women and men and 22% against inequality and poverty. Nevertheless, these young people have changed a lot since the 1980s, when the goal was to join a large group and make a career there. Their ideal company is primarily local (39% and up to 43% in the provinces), it is a start-up (26%) or an SSE (social and solidarity economy company) (25%). The kings of the CAC 40 attract only 13% (but still 22% of Bac +3) of respondents. Once hired, 18/24s want the company to show them respect (58%) and trust (45%), far ahead of commitment (17%) or exemplarity (9%). Finally, a high proportion (43%, and 54% for those who dream of the CAC 40) first look for a well-paid job, and only then an interesting activity (32%) and time available for their personal life (30% ). Telework, popularized during the health crisis, interests 4 out of 10 young people who wish to have the possibility of working from home a few times (42%). Faced with work, young people are both similar to their elders (having a good salary and an interesting job) and different (more values, a better balance between professional and personal life). As sociologist Patricia Vendramin points out in issue 86 of the journal Agora Debates/Youth of October 2020, for this youth of 2022, “work continues to play the role of great social integrator”.

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Arthur Gosset, the disruptive engineer (Nantes)

Arthur Gosset, 24, an engineer with a degree from Centrale Nantes in environmental engineering, will not go to work in a multinational. He is part of this generation for whom the match between his job and his values ​​is not negotiable. In 2019, he realizes Breakups, a documentary on the change of course of students from the Grandes Ecoles in the face of the ecological and social issues of our time. It follows six young people who have chosen to live in accordance with their convictions and that “whatever the cost”. A year earlier, Nicolas Hulot was Minister for Ecological Transition, marches for the climate had brought together thousands of young people, 35,000 students ready to boycott companies that are not committed to the planet even if it means earning less had signed a manifesto . “One of my friends decided to do her second-year internship in an association instead of a large group. His father stopped talking to him because, for him, it was a failure in his professional career. I wanted to talk about these choices and the breaks they can cause. explains Arthur Gosset. Since then, he has organized screenings in major schools, companies and associations to present these six courses to other young people who are wondering about their future. “There is an awareness in the Grandes Ecoles which train the elite in order to readapt their courses by taking into account environmental and social issues” welcomes the young engineer. As for large groups, “they have not all necessarily understood that we are looking for useful and sustainable jobs” adds the neo-documentarist. For him, there is urgency: according to a study by The Lancet Planetary Health September 2020, 75% of 16-25 year olds are afraid of the future and suffer from eco-anxiety. Between personal values ​​and fear of disappointing their loved ones, or being downgraded socially, young graduates find it difficult to situate themselves. Arthur Gosset and his companion chose them. They have other documentary projects and are going to create their own company to reconcile work and beliefs.

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Chloé Coudray, the future enarque who wants to share the eco (Paris)

T La Revue n°9

Chloé Coudray, 24, a law and economics graduate, is preparing for the ENA. She is also interested in economics and co-founded the think-tank Partageons l’Éco, which aims to popularize economics in partnership with the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. It publishes concept sheets, charts and articles on economic news. “I share the aspirations of today’s young people but I am not out of touch with the big groups. I think it is possible to make them evolve from within” explains the young woman. For her, these large companies criticized by some are a pole of stability and credibility, in which young people can register their values. “It’s a question of acting internally to lead them towards the same objectives of respect for the environment and ethics that today’s youth demand. In housing, some urban planners recommend rehabilitating rather than destroying and rebuilding from scratch. The same method can be applied in these large companies” believes the future senior civil servant. But how to reform these large, very hierarchical structures from the inside? Chloé Coudray believes, after several internships in companies, that young people are now listened to: “We are trusted more. I think we can be a source of inspiration that will influence decision makers”. As a student at the Sorbonne, she rubbed shoulders with rebellious students, “sometimes not measured and not very credible” according to her, which are being built against these large groups. Should we expect a schism between graduates who refuse any compromise and those who agree to play the game? “The labor market is already polarized between the most qualified and those with fewer diplomas. There will undoubtedly be a second division of this type. I hope that we will be able to work together so as not to create an intragenerational break” concludes the student.

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Article from T La Revue n°9 “Working, is it really reasonable?” – Currently on newsstands and available on

T La Revue n°9