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Class governs young adults' scope of action

Anyone who is a young adult today and who has low self-confidence or few resources can no longer rely on the strength of collective communities.

Individualization means that young adults are on their own when it comes to responsibility for their successes and failures. This is emphasized in a new thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

"Individualization means that the individual must tend more towards self-confidence and support from home. Social conditions and the class concept thus play a different role today. The collective community no longer provides the same security," says Gunnar Gillberg of the Department of Work Science.

He has studied young adults' notions of work and self-realization.

Dominant role in future
Young adults, those aged 20-29 years, will shortly dominate the labour market. Forty per cent of those who worked in 2003 will have been replaced by 2015. Young adults' notions of working life and self-realization are therefore a factor of significance.

Gunnar Gillberg points out that individualization is a result of altered structural conditions, not of dissolved structural conditions. Globalization, a global division of labour and a reduction in the proportion of jobs that can provide a basis for a collective society are examples of changed structural conditions and therefore lead to increased individualization.

Strategic choices
"Other structural conditions have increased significance – conditions which were previously compensated for and embedded in collective communities and frameworks. Family, social surroundings and the local environment have a greater significance than before when it comes to the ability of young adults to develop resources. In extreme cases, negative identities develop, for example, those associated with criminal gangs," says Gunnar Gillberg.

Society's new conditions affect young adults to a particularly high degree. They must also make more weighty and strategic decisions at a time in their lives when there are great changes taking place. Social change is thus easy to identify in precisely this group of young adults.

"Potential horizons have increased for most young adults. However, the ability to realize that potential in an ever more individualized world is extremely unequally distributed. All young adults are forced to choose. Not all have the resources to carry that decision through," says Gunnar Gillberg.

Helena Aaberg | idw
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