Global youth reveal their motivations in AIESEC survey of 160,292


AIESEC, the largest association of global university students, surveyed 160,292 global youth, 55% female, most ages 16 to 24, which they summarized in a 2016 YouthSpeak report. The survey backs up my conclusion that youth today are altruistic and that educated young people share similar attitudes globally. A majority of the respondents volunteer (56%), except in Asia (46%) and Western Europe and North America (45%). The highest volunteer rates are in MENA and Latin America (68%). If they were paid to anything, three of the four responses are altruistic: teach, help, build, and travel. Ten percent plan to work for an NGO in ten years (especially for peace and justice causes and that’s the cause they’d most like to work for as a volunteer abroad). However, only 5% predict they will be working for a “social start up” in ten years.

Asked what motivates them most in life, they answered in this order: family, purpose, love, friends, and financial success– spiritual values were in 13th place. Asians put achievement in fifth place, Africans put it in fourth place behind financial success and MENA put it in third place; while Western Europeans and North Americans put purpose in fourth place, and Latin Americans put sense of contribution in fourth place—the most likely to help others. As to their most trusted sources of information, parents and relatives were close behind professors, followed by friends. (Pragmatic, their main reason for going to college is to gain useful knowledge and skills to prepare them for a career.)

Young people are globally minded. When asked what is most important to in the five years after graduation from college, global opportunities was number one followed by opportunities to learn. Some regional differences showed up: Asians most wanted challenging work and Latin Americans and Western Europeans and North Americans wanted constant learning. They’re much most likely to predict they’ll be working for a multi-national corporation in ten years (26%) than a national corporation. In order to grow personally and professionally, they would most like to be part of an exchange in another area followed by the altruistic selection of volunteering in second place (Asia was the exception with study tours in second place and volunteering coming in third). However, over half didn’t know about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The exception was African where 60% knew about them.

Their most important UN goals are to insure quality education and reduce poverty, typical responses for global youth. Western Europeans and North Americans put protect the planet in second place rather than poverty and Africans put poverty as number one goal as usual Their two top sources of information are global—Facebook and Google. TV and Internet news were in third and fourth place, followed by friends. Africa was different in that TV and Facebook were the top sources of information and in Western Europe and North America Internet news was in second place rather than Google. Only 5% don’t have a smartphone and only 1% don’t have a mobile phone. The regions that most often report they “live on my smartphone” are Western Europe and North America and Central and Eastern Europe, but 20% thinks this practice is harmful.

Young people are optimistic as 68% think their society will be better in 15 years. The most optimistic are Africans and Eastern and Central Europeans, perhaps because they have farther to go, and the least hopeful are Western Europeans and North Americans. Their biggest fears about the future of the world are lack of humanity, war, climate change, lack of resources and corruption. Although youth are usually accused of being apolitical, in response to a question about who has the strongest ability to influence society, government is the top response (36%), followed by youth-led organization (21%) and individuals (17%). MENA respondents have most faith in youth organizations (32%), while Latin Americans and Western European and North Americans selected businesses in second place. AIESEC advocates that leadership is the fundamental solution to world problems, encouraging young people to “ drive positive societal change.” Asked about their role-models for leadership, the most popular eight men and two women are in this order: Nelson Mandala, Barack Obama, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and Bill Gates. Respondents believe a great leader has passion, responsibility, confidence, determination, courage, vision, empathy, and care.


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