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Strokes to the “digital generation” portrait: belarusian youth of 2020

The formation of the modern generation of Belarusian youth took place under the conditions of the unprecedented influence of digital and network technologies, which justifies its positioning as a “digital generation”. Being the most mobile and energetically charged fraction of the population, young people often act as a determining force in the most important social and political events. At the same time, the older generation periodically raises the question of what kind of young people live in our country now, what are their values, worldview, mindset and how do they differ from previous generations of young people?

The data of a survey conducted upon request from the BISR by the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Belarus in February 2020 among young people of 18–29 years old will help to characterise the modern Belarusian youth in general. With the help of this popular sociological tool, we will try to analyse the value orientations and behavioural attitudes of young Belarusians, since in many respects they determine what the economic, political, socio-cultural and demographic future of the country will look like, to what extent the talent and determination of the representatives of this most important social group will be directed for the good of society.

The young generation of Belarusians as a whole is characterised by a positive social well-being: 83% of boys and girls are satisfied with their life to some extent (only 16.4% are dissatisfied). In addition, young people are optimistic about their future — 57.5% believe that their lives will improve over the next year (only 4.8% are “pessimists”).

The life principles of young Belarusians are becoming more separated from the ideals formed during the Soviet period, and include the values of individualism and private life inherent to the market socio-economic system and the Western way of life. The “measure” of success in life among young people, first of all, is material well-being: the ability to buy what they want and like, manage their own property, freely choose their occupation, place of residence and travel. For example, as the main condition determining the choice of work, young people put forward the amount of the salary (78.6%) and pay much less attention to other aspects such as good working conditions and mode of work (55%). This means that in the current generation of young people a perception of reality has developed, which cultivates a stake on success, material wealth, and the achievement of a high professional and social status.

The main aspirations of Belarusian youth, as it was before, are maintaining their own health (61.8%) and creating a strong family (56.9%). The decisive factors for creating a family are romantic — love and the feeling of happiness (67.5%), as well as the desire to live with a certain partner (58.1%). Less often, young people mention the desire to have children (47.4%), the availability of their own home (36.2%), personal material wealth (18.7%) or the partner’s income (12.5%), the desire to live in a family “like everyone else” (10.8%), etc.

From the point of view of young Belarusians, educational and professional plans and pragmatically concrete actions are the main elements that shape their future. Young men and women emphasize conscientious work, entrepreneurship and education as the main conditions for a successful life in Belarus. So, in order to guarantee a secure future for yourself and your family, in the opinion of young people, you must first and foremost work hard and persistently (51.3%). Less often, young people see the prospects for a successful life in entrepreneurial initiative — starting a business, doing business (41.1%), in education — getting higher education, studying a lot, constantly improving their skills (37.9%), as well as in network to get a good job (31.5%) and migration (20.6%).

The least interesting “keys” to a successful life for young people are “to enter the civil service (to become an official)” — 7.9%, “to marry or get married for convenience” — 6.4%, “to get a job in Minsk” — 6.1%.

The study revealed a fairly high level of secondary employment for young people — a quarter of young people (25.4%), in addition to their main job, have an occupation that brings additional income. However, for the most part these are casual side jobs and earnings (18.3%).

Feeling more free and flexible than the previous generation, young Belarusians postpone the period of growing up. This leads to the postponement of the most important stages of life: choosing a profession, going to work, leaving parental care, creating a family, having children. E.g., in comparison with the data for 2014, the importance of the desire to have children has noticeably decreased (from 59 to 47.4%) among young people, this is especially noticeable among the male part (from 64.1 to 41.2%).

Among the problems for young people, the most relevant are the issues traditional for this age category: difficulties with employment (18.2%) and housing (17.7%). Much less often (less than 10%) young people are worried about low income, wages, the situation in the education sphere, the spread of drug addiction, etc.

Belarusian youth expects from adult life not only material prosperity, but also self-fulfilment. An irresistible desire to prove their specific character explains the growth of the interest in individual entrepreneurship, their own projects (“starting your own business”), the popularity of blogging, freelancing, etc. E.g., if they had the opportunity to choose, 39.7% of respondents would prefer to start their own business. However, young people often do not take into account the high competition in these areas, in which only a few succeed and become stars.

Personally and mentally, Belarusian youth was formed under conditions of sovereignty. At the same time, the political views of young Belarusians on the whole differ little from those that are shared by the adult population of the country. Thus, the majority of boys and girls (59.9%) stated that there were no differences in their position and the position of their parents. Young people generally respect the political views of their parents, which indicates that there is no tension between them and the generation of “fathers”.

Traditionally, the political activity of Belarusian youth is inferior to the social one. In particular, less than 1% of young Belarusians are involved in the activities of parties and other political organisations, and 57.7% are not interested in politics at all. The main forms of youth participation in the social and political life of the country are voting in elections (presidential, parliamentary) (57.6%), as well as discussing politics with friends and acquaintances (42.6%).

In case of dissatisfaction with the situation in the country, only 4.6% will take part in protest actions (rallies, strikes, etc.). For the overwhelming majority of young people (68.9%), rallies and protest actions are unacceptable, since “these are extreme measures that must be resorted to only in exceptional cases,” and these measures “do not solve problems, but only destabilise the situation in the country”.

Belarusian youth is a fairly active social group. In addition to participation in youth public associations, volunteering, social entrepreneurship, charitable and humanitarian projects are becoming an increasingly common field for self-fulfillment of young men and women. E.g., over the past year the majority of young Belarusians (60%) have taken part in volunteer projects, in the activities of professional and student unions, charitable organisations, health and fitness and sports clubs, creative teams, etc.

The rapid development of modern technologies, the spread of the Internet, mobile devices and other gadgets have significantly affected the everyday behaviour of Belarusian youth, who today are totally involved in Internet communications. The network is the main type of leisure for boys and girls, providing them with a high degree of freedom and self-fulfillment, allowing them to keep abreast of all trends and feel comfortable regardless of where they live.

Almost all representatives of the “digital generation” use the Internet every day, the vast majority of whom (84.1%) are active participants in social networks. Half of young people (53.3%) enjoy entertainment resources (music, films, etc.) and news sites (51.8%), a significant part (38.7%) goes to online stores, while a third (33.9% ) visits educational and scientific resources. Every fifth young user (18.1%) spends time playing online games, every tenth (10.6%) reads blogs, LJ (LiveJournal).

Thus, on the whole, Belarusian youth is a group that is unified in its values and behavioural attitudes, structured and organisationally shaped thanks to unified communication channels and a fairly homogeneous social environment.

The basis of the individualistic orientations and pragmatic life strategies expressed in the youth environment, in addition to materialism, is the focus on obtaining intangible values (impressions, emotions) and improving the quality of life (ecology, health).

It is important for the young generation of Belarusians to have the opportunity to achieve success in the country. From the state, young citizens expect attention to them and their problems (employment, housing), economic and social movement forward, the formation of transparent social lifts, the proposal of new forms of self-fuldillment and demonstration of the role of youth in the life of the country.