Portugal

Young people in my country do not have the support they really would like to have. Young people are not seen as an investment, and I really think that the information that is given to us is inefficient, which sometimes makes us go in a wrong direction. I think that a little more investment in our education and with some more doors open to us, we might have the chance to really do something.

In Portugal, the majority of young people are now encountering a very hard situation in finding a job. They finish their degrees, and after they work in fields that are not even related. We live in a rural area where the young people do not have any special skills, and where they usually do not study a lot.

I think that the situation of young people in Portugal is not very different, in comparison with young people from other countries in Europe. We have some issues that worry youth, as in other countries, such as unemployment, drugs or the lack of conditions in schools or universities. In relation to the youth association, I think that we had some apathy from young people who never participated in such kind of projects, but those who participate really enjoy it and are highly interested in doing something. So we have to work on the motivation of our youth group.

Portugal is a 10 million people country with a moderate youth population (for a European country) concentrated mainly in urban areas, usually with a moderate literacy. The main problems regarding youth are alcohol and drugs, and unemployment. Portugal has suffered a mass movement from the country to the main cities, regarding most especially young people to work or study. There are also some adaptation problems regarding a new youth population with Africans from Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde and Eastern European origins from Ukraine, Kosovo, Moldavia, etc. who fled with their parents from these countries to Europe in search of a better life.

‘˜Youth’ is a relatively recent phenomenon. Four or five decades ago a person’s early life had a few well-defined phrases, such as childhood (living with parents, in education and single); an intermediate stage (living with parents and moving into the labour market); and adulthood (living away from home, married, probably a parent, and either employed or married to someone in work). In Portugal, all that has changed. People now move in and out of the parental home, live alone or in non-marital partnerships, and deal with a blurred relationship between partnership and parenting. In addition, the changing youth labour market has led to young people spending longer time in education, being more likely to be unemployed, and more likely to have insecure contract work. As a result, young people aged 17′“25 have increasingly diverse lifestyles, and experience frequent changes in their family and work situations.

Unfortunately violence is growing in Portugal, mainly domestic violence in families. Violence between university students is also growing. Apart from violence, the problem at the moment in Portugal is unemployment. Young people that finish high school and do not want to continue university together with young people that finish university cannot find employment. The challenge is to develop training initiatives for them to make their curriculum more competitive, on one side. And as a second attempt, to try to make the levels of violence go down with training and interaction activities.

The situation in our country is a little chaotic because we feel that young people do not feel very comfortable with the situation to participate in different kinds of social and cultural events. We think that the main reason or problem can be because they are very attached to their family. The young population is going through a very hard time as drugs and alcohol are getting even closer to them.

Youngsters in my country are very spoiled by the globalised society. They have lost their values and they badly need something to believe in. In our local area of Eiras, youngsters are very poor, and they face enormous difficulties. They are located a bit far from the city centre and they have nothing to occupy their free time with. In Lisbon and the major cities, youngsters come from different cultural backgrounds and they do not feel integrated in one single society.

Young people in Portugal, just like youth from any other country, live surrounded by challenges, fears, uncertainties and small-big problems. The last decade was a time for great changes and big modifications in our country, as the changes in Europe started being felt in Portugal, and we had to learn how to live in a new reality, in a world without frontiers, without limits, where the differences become equal and where every one is close to us. We live in an era of instant communication. Our youth are the generation of the virtual world, where anything is possible but not everything is applicable to reality. They can be, as they already are, the generation of tolerance and acceptance. Difference is part of their lives. They study, they live together with young people from all over the world, and they find no difficulty in it. Our youth has the merit of learning from adults’ mistakes, changing the future and avoiding them. They are part of a global culture of tolerance. Maybe it makes no sense to talk of Portuguese young people. Maybe we should speak about youth of the world. After all they are alike, they all look for the same things: to grow, to be happy and to conquer the future.

A recent study (January 2005) about the youth situation in Portugal shows, once more, that youths’ main concern is unemployment (about 42% of the opinions). On the other hand, besides the huge possibilities that Portuguese society offers to youth in the volunteering area (e.g. every kind of civic and social associations, politics, etc.), most of them still do not participate in anything (about 86%). On this point, it is important to remember that these opportunities are mainly based in the largest cities, near the coast, which is a big problem, because young people in towns, villages and in cities in Portugal’s heart do not have anything to do, besides being members of sport associations (usually football). This fact, allied with the lack of employment in the regions, forces young people to move to the biggest cities searching for more opportunities, which creates human desertification on their regions of origin. Unfortunately, in Portugal youth in general does not have the awareness that being a volunteer is very important for society, for others and for themselves, being more concerned on solving individual problems, like employment, housing, studies, marriage, etc. Recently, one important fact is that the military service changed to voluntary only, which is a good thing in my opinion.

In Portugal, as certainly in many countries, the youth situation is diverse. Thus, in this short text I choose to focus on perspectives and possibilities still emerging nowadays, those related to education and mainly the current form of society’s increasing development in the area of information technology. This technology (e.g. Internet), slowly extending to the reach of all Portuguese youth, is helping young adults to become more close to information, education and opportunities, thus making them more aware of their own possibilities and potential ‘“ at least in the sense that it broadens their horizons. However, in the area of education, the opportunities resulting from this new type of globalisation are still not much recognised, or few advantages are taken from them. This implies that the educational potential in Portugal is not being fully realised and that many times young adults are unconsciously pushed along popular paths (for example when choosing an area of training or work), instead of critically and creatively choosing their own paths, which would certainly be a step towards making society a more original place to be in. Nevertheless, I face future positively, with the conviction that an increasing consciousness about the educational attitude is becoming preponderant, and that consequently the youth situation in Portugal tends to improve.