Are young people losing their interest in working in government?

Written by +SocialGood Connector Lovisa Fhager Havdelin for the World Government Summit

When we talk about Millennials and Generation Y, we talk about a generation eager to do work, eager to fulfill themselves, and prove their abilities to the world. This group has grown up in a world telling them “you can do anything, you can become anyone,” and as the pace of life quickens, and other people’s success are following us everywhere through social media, the idea and/or dream of being able to work up a long, safe and successful career is in many ways gone.

Youth activists stand for climate action at the United Nations

Today, we don’t just expect our food to be delivered within 30 minutes to our door or to get information from around the world with just a quick search on Google, we also expect our careers to excel as fast. The idea of staying at one company and earning your “golden watch” is no longer what we dream of when it comes to making a career. We talk in terms of flat organizations, internet-careers, blogs, and getting famous over-night. I’m wondering, how does this affect the way young people think about making a career in government? As more private organizations and NGO’s are adapting to the “new” way of making a career through mentorship programs, CEO-competitions and “winning a job,” politics and government are lagging behind. To have a career in politics is still in many ways a slow and heavy process. You’re supposed to start at young age, work in a political youth party, and slowly work your way up the ladder.

In Sweden, many studies show that the interest in being an active member of a political youth party is decreasing but when I look at social media I see a complete difference, I see lots of young people being interested in politics and the world around them. I see thousands of youths gathering at a square, raising their voices about questions such as gender equality, terrorism, war, and the environment. As the political parties, by example in Sweden, become more and more like each other, young people engage themselves in specific issues close to their heart and commit fully to that subject. Political scientists Erik Amnå and Joakim Ekman (2013) are asking themselves, in what way are the political parties failing to pick up on this engagement?

So how can we engage the ambitious and career-focused young people to be interested in a career in government? I believe that one of the answers is to highlight more role-models. Being able to see yourself in a certain position helps to create inspiration and hope. Sweden is one of the countries that have the youngest administrations in government, with some ministers and representatives being under 30 years old.

Government has to show that the hierarchies in politics can change and actively work against a long tradition of the over representation of white middle-aged men.

With a larger spectrum of representatives (race, age, sexuality), I believe we can create role-models for young people who normally would not see themselves in the political world.

I’m looking forward speaking and discussing more about these issues at the World Government Summit in Dubai and exchange knowledge from experiences worldwide.

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