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Social Media prime enabler for Europe’s youth to drive forward digital economy

Largest ever study of how European youth across 15 countries use Social Media for professional purposes shows a dramatic positive impact on jobs, skills and economic growth.

A new “Generation Direct”: Europe’s young entrepreneurs, students and young professionals are bypassing traditional channels and going direct to markets, customers, educators, investors and their own governments through Social Media. Part of Tata Consultancy Services’ ongoing effort to bring the voice of Europe’s 90 million youth to boardrooms and government institutions. 

Tata Consultancy Services  has released the largest ever Social Media survey of European Youth. The report was launched at its European Union reception in Brussels with the presence of the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Yves Leterme, CEO and MD of TCS, Mr. N. Chandrasekaran and 150 business leaders, Members of European parliament and representatives of the European Commission. The research surveyed a representative sample of more than 5,000 Europeans aged 18-29 from across 15 different countries, concluding that Social Media is playing an instrumental role in helping young people find jobs, upgrade their skills and create economic growth as entrepreneurs.

Titled Social Media is Now Serious Business for Young Europeans, the report finds that for the generation of young Europeans that have grown up immersed in digital technology, social media is far more than just a source of entertainment.  By democratizing the way in which we communicate, discover information and share ideas, social media has helped to shape and empower this generation of young people, creating a new breed of employees and citizens across Europe: Generation Direct.

This generation is bypassing traditional channels and using social media very proactively to search for jobs, upgrade their skills, seek funding for their enterprises, create growth for their businesses or lobby their governments for change. The study found that social media has helped: 46% of young people to find jobs; 7 out of 10 young entrepreneurs to find investors 88% of students to connect with their peers to discuss courseware; 50% young people to campaign for change through online petitions.

These trends are helping drive Europe’s digital economy forward. The European Commission measures the progress of the region’s digital economy through a composite index called DESI (Digital Economy & Society Index) which is built on 5 pillars: Connectivity, Human Capital, Use of the Internet, Integration of Digital Technology and Digital Public Services. The European Union’s score (EU28) has increased from 0.46 in 2014 to 0.52 in 2016 on this index, led by increased digitization of businesses and online commerce. 

N Chandrasekaran, CEO and Managing Director of TCS said: “Through this survey we are looking to ensure that the voice of Europe’s young people is being heard by the European decision-makers who affect them – be it business boardrooms, parliaments or academic committees. The survey concludes quite compellingly that Social Media is playing a crucial enablement role in strengthening the careers of Europe’s 90 million young people and helping drive its economy. Europe’s political and business leaders must take all steps to ensure that they embrace digital technologies to better engage with and enable their youth. The entrepreneurial energy of this generation has a huge potential economic upside for employers, businesses and governments; if they are willing to embrace it.”

Shankar Narayanan, Country Head, TCS UK & Ireland commented: “This generation of young people instinctively see the world through a social filter; whether they are looking to find a job, raise funding for a business or engage with political issues. For instance, 62 percent of young Britons have signed a petition via social media but just 43 percent of 18-24 year olds voted in the 2015 General Election. This typifies the way in which established institutions and brands are still at times struggling to engage with Generation Direct. Businesses, employers and governments need to understand what this new generation means for their organisation and adapt accordingly by placing a greater emphasis on responsiveness, flexibility and peer-to-peer collaboration.”

Reacting to the views of the youth, several political, business, association and academic leaders have also shared their perspectives in this study, including the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and leading Members of European Parliament (MEPs) including Eva Paunova, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Martina Dlabajová.

Key findings
Hierarchy, status and bureaucracy are anathema to Generation Direct. The report finds that young people will instinctively use digital technology to circumvent traditional processes when learning, working, starting a business, or expressing themselves politically. Rather than relying on traditional applications or recruitment agencies, almost half (45%) of young Europeans that are on social media have used it to find jobs. 62% of those with a postgraduate degree, and 52% of those with a university degree have used social media to find a job.

Social media is also a critical tool for young business owners, who are using it to bypassing traditional barriers to growth: 70% of young entrepreneurs use social media to attract potential investors and three in five (60%) use social media to find freelancing staff. Young people are also using social channels to bypass traditional education. Three in five (60%) young Europeans on social media use it to improve skills, knowledge and expertise through tutorials and videos.

Social media is also seen as an effective way of driving change at a political or corporate level. Half of all young Europeans say they have used social media to sign an online petition (50%). They are connected and collaborative by default – whether asking for careers advice or working on a project for their employer, the research finds that young people expect to be able to share ideas and collaborate seamlessly across channels. Social media is not seen as separate from business. In fact, it is a key tool for young people both as entrepreneurs and employees.

Three quarters of entrepreneurs engage with existing clients via social media (77%) – with two in five doing this daily or more frequently (41%). Three in five use social media for talking to colleagues about work-related issues (62%), with 29% doing this at least once a day. Importantly, Generation Direct believes in using whichever social platform best allows them to achieve their goals, rather than tailoring communications to bespoke networks. Facebook is therefore surpassing LinkedIn as a tool for job hunting: 46% of young Europeans who use social media to find job opportunities do so on Facebook compared to just 28% on LinkedIn. Overall, 93% of young Europeans use Facebook, compared to just 36% who use LinkedIn.

Businesses, governments and educators need to wake up to the power of social – just 38% of employees think that social media has enabled more direct contact with senior management in their workplace and only 43% believe that social media allows them to propose new ideas to senior management. In fact, many businesses are still not acknowledging the benefits that social can bring to their business. Two in five employees (38%) report that one or more social media platforms are restricted in their workplace and less than a quarter (23%) think that their use of social media has improved their prospects of achieving recognition at work.

This is also true in education. Almost nine in ten students (88%) use social media to talk to classmates about course related issues. However, only 39% think that social media enables them to build greater engagement with educators or to improve communication with educators in the classroom. In fact, one in five students (20%) indicate that social media platforms are still restricted within their university. 

UK data

In the UK 44% of young people have used social media to find a job opportunity. This falls below the EU average (45%) and behind countries such as France (52%), Italy (55%), Spain (59%), Romania (61%) and Poland (61%). UK millennials are using the likes of Facebook and YouTube far more than LinkedIn (95% & 94%, compared to 44%). In the UK, the most common reasons for interacting with potential employers are checking their social media profiles for desirability (58%) and getting involved with events offline (57%)

Men are on average far more engaged with potential employers: More than half (55%) of men in the UK use social media to find a new job opportunity, compared to just a third (33%) of women. In the UK, 67% of men said that they use tutorials on social media to improve skills, knowledge or expertise, compared to 52% of females. Nearly six in ten men (59%) said that they would blog with content about the company and industry, compared to just 36% of females. 60% of men would partake in online Q&As, compared to just 40% of women

Social media at work
Three in ten (30%) UK youths surveyed felt that social media increased productivity at work and the prospect of achieving recognition from your employer, compared to 25% and 23% for the EU, respectively. Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed in the UK felt that social media enables them to propose new ideas to senior management, while 45% felt it could influence decisions at a corporate level. For students, social media enables obtaining advice on extracurricular learning (54%), sharing course notes (73%) and organizing study groups (72%)

Political engagement
Three in five (62%) young Britons have signed a petition via social media and half (47%) have used social media to join a pressure group or consumer complaint group. This make political engagement online more common among young people. Just 43% of 18-24 year-olds voted in the 2015 UK general election. (Ipsos Mori)

Karen Price, CEO, The Tech Partnership: “Social media is Generation Direct’s chosen form of interaction, as this report shows. But it is also an increasingly important communications tool for companies in all sectors. There is a real opportunity for young people to bring their highly developed skills in social media to business, and for organisations to make the most of their energy and enthusiasm. The Tech Partnership is working with employers to ensure that young people can harness their digital skills, acquire worthwhile qualifications, and go on to develop successful careers.”

Ian Clifford, CEO of Yourock.Jobs: “Understanding ‘Generation Direct’ will be vital for businesses and governments around the world. At Yourock we realised that young people often need help to find out what career skills they already have, because recruitment websites and social media aren’t designed to do this. Yourock helps young people to identify relevant work skills from their everyday activities. The TCS study reinforces what we are finding; recruitment is stuck in the last century, it doesn’t work for young people across Europe, and so they get creative using social media for job hunting.”

Mary Kunnenkeril, Director, Three Hands: “This data provides companies with the justification to begin questioning whether they are interacting with their future talent in the right way, and if they are not, to question whether this is a barrier to them being an employer of choice for young people. A secondary consideration is to what extent young people understand the need to distinguish between their personal social media presence and their professional social media presence? As companies seek to adapt to the way young people use social media; young people must also be aware of adapting their use of social media for the professional world and this is potentially an area where business and young people can learn from one another.”

Hera Hussain, Founder of Chayn, an open source project empowering women internationally: “Social media is the essence of Chayn, and without it, we wouldn’t exist, let alone grow. It initially enabled us to launch two crowdsourced platforms. Since then, it has enabled us to both run our organisation and have direct contact with volunteers and the women we are trying to help. Through the power of social media, we have recruited 70 volunteers from 11 countries, offering an average of 500 volunteer hours a month and reaching over 60,000 people around the globe.”

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, Chair of Judges for the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering:  “Advances in information technology and the advent of social media have intrinsically altered the ways in which we communicate, and we can no longer ignore its growing importance in industry.  Last year’s QEPrize Create the Future report has highlighted that the UK’s teenagers are far more interested in technology than their counterparts around the world, and increasing numbers of young people are turning to social media not only to connect with their peers, but to share specific knowledge and develop new skills. We must take advantage of this excitement and interest to update the ways in which we provide education and do business in the future.”

William Akerman, Founder and Managing Director, MyKindaFuture: “We share the view that young people are accelerating their migration to consume content on mobile, and this will be true for both career development skills and job seeking. With this in mind MyKindaFuture is investing heavily in mobile and digital strategies. This report provides underpinning evidence of the growing disconnect in communication channels between senior industry decision-makers and young job seekers.” The research is based on a representative sample of more than 5,000 Europeans aged 18-29 from across 15 different countries were surveyed. To find out more about the research, or to download the full report, please visit: The full report can be downloaded at

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