The Power Of Youth: When it comes to making all jobs green, there is no room for compromise

My name is Brian O'Shea. I am a member of OECD Youthwise and am interested in how the transformative potential of the Future of Work can be harnessed to build better cities for both people and the planet. Banner image: Shutterstock/Linaimages
The Power Of Youth: When it comes to making all jobs green, there is no room for compromise
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The OECD's Power of Youth series showcases the perspectives and experiences of young people who are shaping the future. Exploring topics from gender equality and education to climate and careers, the series gives a voice to young advocates and activists who we met in different events, as well as members of Youthwise, the OECD's youth advisory board. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, specifically about why it was important to you to be part of the COP26 event.

My name is Brian, and I am from Dublin, Ireland. “The double anxiety of youth” event presented an important chance to highlight this crucial topic, which straddles climate anxiety and the transition to the world of work. The notion of a “double anxiety” accurately describes how this feeling is experienced by many young people, myself included. As a recent graduate, yes, I want to find a job that will provide me with security and an opportunity for a decent living; but equally, I want to ensure that any job I have is not contradicting the ecological and social values I hold.

What did you want to be when you were younger and what do you do now?

When I was younger, I wanted to be a footballer, of course. I was never a noticeable talent, so I have come to terms with the change of trajectory from footballer to the field of urban development, which is what I am interested in now. Since I am looking for a job right now, it is difficult to say exactly where I will end up. I have seen enough to know what I am good at, which is seeing the big picture, telling stories and listening to people. If an opportunity arose in policy or project work realising positive change in cities, I think I could make a serious contribution there. I will have to wait and see.

Which OECD data point or trend do you find particularly interesting on youth and recovery? Please explain why it stands out to you. (You can also find youth-specific data on the Power of Youth)

I find it hard to look past the data indicating 40% of people aged 18-29 feel their views are not considered in the design of public services. It is hardly a surprise. The Inter-Parliamentary Union     suggests that worldwide 2.6% of parliamentarians are under the age of 30; OECD data suggests that those under 40 make up just 22% of parliamentarians across OECD member states. We have the idea that at the ballot box we should be voting for experience, but voters oftentimes conflate age with experience. The democratic deficit all too often results in young people becoming lambs at the political altar. It is not feasible to build the world of the future when its stewards are systematically excluded from the institutions tasked with shaping it.

Read the OECD policy paper Young people’s concerns during COVID-19: Results from risks that matter 2020 that provides cross-national information on young people’s concerns, perceived vulnerabilities and policy preferences.

What is the most striking take-away from the panel you participated in?

There were incredibly insightful contributions made by all members of the panel at the event. The most striking of these came from Sean Hinton, who remarked that when we conceptualise “green jobs” we should not silo this idea as solely occurring within science, engineering and technology. His point was that all jobs in the future will become green. I was struck by this, as his message has power to bring on board those working in industries that currently feel removed from, or threatened by transition discourse. Much work remains to be done in these spheres; to broaden and consolidate channels of communication without appealing to the chicanery of greenwashing. Many bodies in politics and industry remain averse to the change we need: one that genuinely prioritises the green transition.

Tell us about one youth-led initiative–either one that you work on, or another–that you find particularly inspiring. 

One of the youth-led initiatives that inspires me is a group of young economists based in Germany called FiscalFuture. Using evidence-based solutions, they advocate for fiscal policy that is sustainable and engenders intergenerational justice as its core. They believe youth should have a voice on the economic stage. They have done innovative advocacy work to bring into question “common-sense” economic logic that is neither common nor makes sense; many of these approaches are bywords for austerity and fiscal tightening, which inevitably sacrifice the long-term welfare of youth for the protection of select economic interests. Though small, with an impressive mix of youth, knowledge and values, their model and work thus far is deserving of huge credit.

Find out more about the OECD's Power of Youth project

Find out more about the OECD's Power of Youth project

Related topics: 

Tackling COVID-19 People Power Future of Work Future of Education & Skills Sustainable Development Goals