The future we want: youth aspirations in Armenia
The ongoing global triple crisis composed of economic, social and environmental dimensions has created greater public debate on intergenerational justice and more sustainable forms of development. Armenia is not immune to these ongoing external shocks. While the Government is working to build national resilience in the present, heated debates continue on future development paths for the country. In this context UNDP Armenia looks to the voices of Armenia’s youth for inspiration.
In any debate on the future development of Armenia the voice and participation of youth is integral. As the future of the country, they and unborn generations will feel the effects of decisions and actions today. Their views and aspirations must be heard in order to maintain social cohesion and ensure national resilience in the face of future challenges.
In response to the need for a stronger youth voice in policy development this year’s National Youth Report, published by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs and the Youth Policy Council of the Office of the Prime Minister, will be supplemented with a Youth Aspirations Survey.
- According to the survey’s respondents, the two most significant impediments to starting a family are unemployment and housing issues. Surprisingly, however, almost two thirds of unemployed respondents stated that they are not currently seeking employment;
- over half of the respondents believe that their lives will significantly improve in the coming five years.
“Youth aspirations are high on government agenda. There is an agreement between the government and the UNDP that the findings of Youth Aspiration Survey may be included in the National Youth Report, once the latter is made public. I think that these two documents can complement each other,” says Armen Papyan, the head of Youth Department, Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.
“It is very important to witness a trend that young people increase their motivation to get education that responds to current quality demands, and their profession or university selection is based on more pragmatic decisions. As an expert on youth policy issues I will have more evidence-based background and I will use the survey results for further activities on youth studies,” says Ruben Markosyan, Vice-Rector of the Yerevan State University on Students, Alumni and Public Relations Issues, and Secretary of the National Youth Policy Council under the Prime-Minister of Armenia.
“For me, the findings about unemployment and housing issues are of paramount importance,” says Samvel Manukyan, a participant in a public debate on the Youth Aspiration Survey’s results.
According to the survey’s respondents, the two most significant impediments to starting a family are unemployment and housing issues. Surprisingly, however, almost two thirds of unemployed respondents stated that they are not currently seeking employment.
“The most worrying finding of the survey for me is the high level of migration intentions,” says Diana Ghazaryan, the Research Team Leader. The survey highlights that a large majority (79%) of Armenia’s youth would like to leave the country either temporarily for work or on a permanent basis. However, this data includes also respondents who wished to travel abroad for tourism purposes.
“Adding these together creates a worrying impression of a lack of youth commitment to Armenia,” says Natalya Harutyunyan, UNDP’s Youth Project Expert. “Whether employed or unemployed, the desire to migrate is the same. This is a clear reflection on the lack of opportunities for young people in the Armenia.”
The survey also suggests that the perceived lack of opportunities may instead be due to the choices made by respondents. Only a small minority of respondents (16%) chose their post-school education or training based on job prospects associated with the sector. Contacts are perceived by respondents to be the most important factor in obtaining employment. This is accompanied by a diminishing perception of the value of education among the respondents more generally.
Even in this atmosphere of frustration concerning the lack of opportunities, over half of the respondents believe that their lives will significantly improve in the coming five years. However, when it comes to the respondents’ expectations about future changes to Armenia’s socio-economic conditions and governance, the common belief is that “everything will remain the same”. Hence, we observe that young people in Armenia do not link their own prosperity with the prosperity of the country.
UNDP’s Youth Project Manager Marina Malkhasyan coordinating the survey adds: “Social justice and rule of law come just after the decent job and education, as migration motives mentioned by youth. Young people said they want to see their “state as the one making laws and ensuring their enforcement”, and the primary guarantee for the preservation of the RA statehood for young people is first and foremost - cohesion. This is a clear signal for all of us to be more attentive to the voices of young people and take these core concepts that they suggest as an opening wedge to build “the future that our young people want”.
“I think the public debate on youth issues will be more fruitful if more representatives from the government participated,” says Samvel Manukyan, capturing a widespread perception of a lack of youth dialogue with the government.
As evidenced by the level of interest in the survey and its potential inclusion in the National Youth Report, the Ministry of Youth and Sport and the Youth Policy Council of the Office of the Prime Minister are making efforts to increase their engagement with youth.
“The research participants were very interested in the topic, especially the focus group discussions. The main reason for this is that they perceived focus group discussions as a space for representing their visions, issues and perceptions of reality,” says Diana Ghazaryan.
“So it seems that we have created another channel for dialogue,” says Natalya Harutyunyan, “as long as all stakeholders remain constructive in their inputs, this will be a useful mechanism for ongoing youth participation in shaping public policy.”
The research on aspirations was delivered by UNDP with the support of their implementing partner the Armenian Public Relations Association (APRA). It involved a country wide survey of 1200 youth, 12 focus group discussions with participants from across Armenia and interviews with experts working on the youth sector. The findings from the research were examined as part of a series of four public discussions. The discussions were used to validate the findings and gain feedback on the overall initiative.
The full report includes information on youth expectations and aspirations in the fields of civic engagement, education, employment, family life, leisure, migration and society.