Well-being of young people on the political agenda

03.12.20 | News
Demokrati for unge liv
Most young people are happy with their lives, but the proportion of those who are unhappy is increasing. The Nordic ministers for education want to investigate this. Why is this happening? How can the education sector help to improve well-being among young people?

Two focus areas of the new vision for Nordic co-operation are a competitive Nordic Region and a socially sustainable Nordic Region, promoting knowledge, inclusion, and cohesion. A key prerequisite of this is that young people feel good, which is why it’s important to prevent unhappiness.  Unhappiness has increased among young people not least because of the social isolation they have endured during the current pandemic.

It is still the case that young people from families with low levels of educational attainment and low incomes are the most under pressure when it comes to their well-being and vulnerability. However, unhappiness is also now growing among young people from socio-economically well-placed families. Denmark’s Minister for Higher Education and Science, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, is worried about – but also impressed by – young people.

“I’m impressed with how young people are coping with the pandemic. They’re adhering to the guidelines, actively participating in their education, and socialising in new ways. But we mustn’t ignore the fact that these are also hard times, which can be difficult for many people. We need community perhaps now more than ever, which is why I’m pleased that right across the Nordic Region we’re now focusing on how young people are doing, now and in general. We can learn a lot from each other,” says Halsboe-Jørgensen.

The Nordic social model has aided social mobility and created an opportunity for self-realisation. Although this is, in every way, a desirable development, there are two sides to every coin.

There is a growing focus in modern society on individual performance, and the need for this to be good. Being ordinary is no longer good enough. The idea of perfection has become the new normal.

At the same time, unhappiness among young people is a complex issue and can be due to several factors, such as issues related to social media, digitalisation, and a lack of real relationships. Education, too, plays an important role in this growing performance culture.

The general trend of continually testing and measuring pupils can result in their education being associated with constant pressure. Surveys also show that performance pressure also comes from young people themselves, as well as their parents, the education system, and societal debate. Young people also say that they lack a sense of community in their education.

The Danish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers has emphasised what the education sector can do to improve young people’s academic and social well-being.

The Nordic ministers for education will initiate a study that will map initiatives that have a positive effect on young people’s well-being.  At their digital meeting on Thursday 3 December, the ministers for education and research exchanged knowledge and experience in the area. Denmark is also planning an international conference with a focus on well-being during 2021.