Why are intergenerational ties important? A youth perspective
By Javier Romero Zabaleta
One day last week, while I was driving back home, I asked myself what intergenerational ties mean to young people in general. Intergenerational ties are one of the three themes proposed by the United Nations for the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family as well as a priority area of the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY).
First of all, youth unemployment is affecting intergenerational ties to some extent. Today, there are around 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24, more than one-third of whom are unemployed and many of them moving back into their parents’ home. This often means that parents and grandparents are making a bigger economic effort to protect their children and/or grandchildren from extreme job uncertainty and reduce their vulnerability. Youth unemployment involves great costs to the economy, to society and even to individuals and their families.
Secondly, today’s demographic challenges such as the decline in the world fertility rate from 4.9 children per woman to 2.6 between 1955 to 2010, the increase in population ageing, and the decrease in the potential support ratio, are changing intergenerational ties. Older persons need more help from young people, and surveys carried out in different countries show that most older persons prefer to be cared for by their family or relatives. Work-family balance is also an issue as we talk about intergenerational ties. This topic, which is another of the themes for the Anniversary, still needs to be tackled in order to meet the needs of young and old people.
Why are intergenerational ties so important for youth? Is the answer closely related to the importance of a strong and united family?
Families have a crucial role in social development because they bear the primary responsibility for the nurturing, protection, education and socialization of their children and youth. The material and non-material care and support provided by families to all family members, from children to older persons or those suffering from illness, contributes to intergenerational solidarity and economic security. In this sense, families could be the nexus for a more balanced distribution of material and economic and non-economic resources.
In his Report on the ‘Follow-up to the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond’ (A/66/62–E/2011/429), the United Nations Secretary-General highlighted that
“the recent Millennium Development Summit outcome document does not mention the family, except in the context of family planning. Yet, the majority of the Millennium Development targets, especially those related to the reduction of poverty, education of children and reduction in maternal mortality, are difficult to attain unless the strategies to achieve them focus on the family”.
The report also emphasized that
“notwithstanding national efforts, at the international level the family is appreciated but not prioritized in development efforts. The very contribution of families to the achievement of development goals continues to be largely overlooked, while there seems to be a consensus on the fact that, so far, the stability and cohesiveness of communities and societies largely rest on the strength of the family”.
Every year on 15th May the International Day of Families is observed. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Families Matter for the Achievement of Development Goals”. The celebration of the day is an opportunity to raise awareness on intergenerational ties within the family sphere.
About the Author: Javier Romero Zabaleta, age 27, is a Project Manager at the Family Watch, International Federation for Family Development
The International Federation for Family Development (IFFD)
The International Federation for Family Development (IFFD) is a non-governmental organization that aims to provide solid support and effective aid for men and women in their roles as parents. The organization works extensively on intergenerational ties and family dimensions.
More information here:
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