Stylish, Anxious & Conservative: Young Indians Today

More young Indians are studying now than ever before, yet the prospect of unemployment is their biggest worry. More young Indians are using mobile phones and laptops, but very few have access to the internet. More young Indians are spending money on keeping up with fashion trends, but believe that women should not work after marriage.

These young Indians, aged below 35, constitute one-third of our population.

A year ago, the Centre for the Study in Developing Societies (CSDS) in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) conducted a sample survey-based study on the attitudes, anxieties and aspirations of India’s young population. The CSDS-KAS Youth Survey 2016 was conducted in 19 states of the country among 6,122 respondents in the 15-34 age group. The study gives us a fair idea about how the economic, political and socio-cultural, and technological changes in the country have impacted the Indian youth, as the last such survey was conducted by the two organisations ten years ago in 2007.

Here are the three big takeaways:

1. Young Indians are Highly Anxious

78% of the 18-25 group were worried about getting a job. 83% of the 15-17-year-old respondents were worried about education. Urban youth and those with better educations and higher economic status were more anxious.

The number of young Indians who marked ‘student’ as their occupational profile has seen a significant rise from a mere 13% in 2007 to about 32% in 2017.

(Graphics: The Quint/Harsh Sahani)

A government job is as much in demand as it was a decade ago. An overwhelming majority of India’s youth, about 65%, said they would prefer a government job, if given the choice. Setting up one’s business came a distant second at 19%, followed by a job in the private sector with 7%.

There is fairly strong support among India’s youth for existing reservations for SC/STs and OBCs in government jobs and educational institutions. The lowest support, however, is among Hindu upper castes.

2. Young Indians are Stylish and Well-Informed

The Indian youth seems to be quite conscious about how they look. 61% says they are somewhat or very fond of wearing stylish clothes. 59% were keen on acquiring the latest mobile phone. 39% said they liked applying fairness creams quite a lot and 36% reported a moderate or high degree of fondness for visiting beauty parlours and salons.

Mobile phone ownership among the Indian youth has doubled in a decade. About 81% own a mobile phone in 2017 as opposed to only 34% in 2007. 24% of the households surveyed own a laptop, compared to only 8% in 2007.

About 57% of the youth watch TV news regularly and about 53% read newspapers. About 18% of the respondents got their news from the internet.

(Graphics: The Quint/Harsh Sahani)

Yet, Conservative in Their Social Outlook

Though Eeconomic and technological advancements have led young Indians evolve into a much more aware demographic, their social and cultural outlook is still very conservative.

This is reflected in their attitude towards women, wherein 51% agreed (either somewhat or strongly) with the proposition that wives should always listen to their husbands. 40% of the respondents agreed with the proposition that women should not work after marriage. Interestingly, a fairly high proportion of young women respondents also held such conservative views.

After taking into account five questions probing attitudes towards women, the survey found that about a quarter (24%) of the young respondents were very patriarchal and 29% were somewhat patriarchal, another 29% were less patriarchal and only 18% or one in every six were found to not be patriarchal at all.

When asked about their opinion on the issue of same sex relationships, three in every five or about 61% of the young respondents considered a love affair between two men as wrong. Similarly, 61% considered a love affair between two women to be wrong. Interestingly, young people living in big cities were found to be less approving of homosexuality than those living in smaller cities and villages.

(Graphics: The Quint/Harsh Sahani)

Two-thirds or 67% of the respondents did not approve of live-in relationships and two in every five or 40% were opposed to the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

In fact, most youngsters don’t stand with liberals on contentious political issues like the death penalty, ban on films, and consumption of beef. 49% disagreed that death penalty should be abolished, 60% agreed that films that hurt religious sentiments should be banned and 46% disagreed that consumption of beef is part of personal eating habits and nobody should have an objection.

In measuring prejudice among the youth, the survey finds that 23% said they will be uneasy if their neighbours cooked non-vegetarian food. 47% said they would be uneasy if their neighbour consumed alcohol.

A plurality of young Indians also seem to lack a scientific temperament, since close to half the respondents were of the opinion that religion should get precedence over science when the two clash. Surprisingly, many graduates also took this position, although they are also more likely to take the counter position.

The Silver Lining

Cross-group friendships seem to liberalise attitudes, the report indicates. About four in five respondents reported having a close friend from another caste. A greater proportion of young men were found to have a close friend from the opposite gender than young women.

Those with cross-group friendships were found to be more liberal and less prejudiced in their attitudes about other communities that those with same-group friendships. For instance, the survey found caste-based prejudice to be weaker among respondents with cross-caste friendships. When respondents were asked if they would have a problem if their neighbour belonged to a different caste, the proportion of those who answered in the affirmative was seven percentage points higher among those who reported not having a close friend from another caste than among those who reported having one.