Security is priority for youth in Wales

18th November 1994 at 00:00
Sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll are way down the priority list for Welsh teenagers, a new survey has revealed.

Instead, their dreams for the future centre on a job, an income and a family.

"It shows how society and times are changing. Young people see a lot more instability in family life, moral decline - if you like, sleaze - and they want to be secure and safe," said Brian Williams, executive director of the Wales Youth Agency which commissioned the survey. "You wouldn't have got these sort of findings years ago - we all knew we would fall into some sort of job. "

The survey of a thousand 13 to 19-year-olds was modelled on a massive French exercise which canvassed every 15 to 26-year-old in the country. But the results are very different.

For one thing, some of the 57 French recommendations that arose from the survey stand some chance of becoming law. The Welsh results - due to be released on Monday at the start of Youth Work Week - are intended to do little more than remind the principality's forthcoming unitary authorities, which are due to replace the present two-tier local authority system, that young people exist and should be provided for. It is, however, likely that young people will debate the Welsh findings in an experimental Youth Assembly next February, with the possibility that they will become the audience for the BBC1's Question Time that evening.

And the findings are very different. French teenagers wanted the vote at 16, a choice between military or community national service, free, confidential health centres and various concessions to improve the lot of young people.

In Wales the main preoccupation was future employment, mentioned by 62 per cent of teenagers, followed by a comfortable living (46 per cent) and a family or partner (42 per cent.) Just under a quarter mentioned happiness and 10 per cent aspired to a car.

A good education was mentioned as a priority by 5 per cent, and less crime or violence by 3 per cent - the same proportion as those wanting sex, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. Having a say in the political process, Welsh autonomy and excitement or adventure were rated as important by just 1 per cent of the teenagers.

Asking what questions those surveyed would put to the Government also yielded some interesting answers. The highest proportion - 20 per cent - would ask about unemployment, with Welsh autonomy and language issues rating just 12 per cent, just ahead of welfare cuts and homelessness.

Some 7 per cent would ask about environmental issues, while 6 per cent were interested in lowering the age of consent and legalising cannabis.

One in a hundred wanted to know why there were so many changes to education, while a half of 1 per cent wanted homosexuality to be made illegal, disabled rights, tighter immigration control, ID cards and less foreign aid. "Young people can be quite reactionary," said Mr Williams.

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