With less than two weeks to go until the Budget, young people have told the world’s largest youth charity, YMCA, that a lack of access to jobs and quality education were their biggest concerns growing up in Britain in 2016.

In total, 40% of the 2,000 respondents to YMCA’s What Matters Most research highlighted job availability as their biggest worry, despite latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing moderate falls in unemployment.

In addition to this, a further 36% highlighted the quality of their education and 24% the cost of further education as their biggest concerns, reflecting the reality of how hard it is for young people to access opportunities and reach their potential in modern society.

What Matters Most also questioned young people on their biggest concerns across key policy areas, including housing, education and training, health and wellbeing, family and relationships. Findings include:

  • 42% of young people said rental costs were the biggest issue for them, when questioned about their housing prospects
  • 44% of 16 to 24-year-olds said exam stress was an issue for them, in relation to education and training
  • 44% of young people cited mental health as their biggest concern, when questioned about their health and wellbeing
  • 41% said debt was the biggest family issue facing them in 2016.

Researchers spoke to 2,005 young people aged 16 to 24-years-old from England and Wales to discover what they felt the Government had to prioritise in the coming Budget to prevent them becoming a marginalised generation.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England, the National Council of YMCAs, said: “What Matters Most gives a loud and clear message to Government that young people are finding it more difficult than ever before to fulfil their potential.

“We know at YMCA how important it is for young people to access sustainable jobs and quality education, and it is clear from this research that this generation has very real fears about being cut adrift from society as political and economic realities bite.

“Positive changes, such as a promised increase in apprenticeships, are welcome but the Government must use its first full Budget to focus on young people and give them the start in life that they need to progress positively into work and society.”

Show your support on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatMattersMost

Read more about What Matters Most to young people at www.ymca.org.uk/WMM


For more information or to request an interview with a YMCA representative, please contact Andrew Mortimer, Communications Manager, at andrew.mortimer@england.ymca.org.uk or call 020 7186 9543.

Notes to editors​ – YMCA

  • Founded in 1844, YMCA in England is made up of 114 member YMCAs working to ensure that young people have opportunities to thrive and contribute positively to their communities.
  • YMCA operates in over 530 different communities in England impacting upon the lives of over 600,000 people every year.
  • YMCAs provide almost 10,000 beds for young people every night. YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of safe, supported accommodation for young men and women.
  • YMCA enables nearly 43,000 people every year to engage in education, skills and training to enable them to improve their opportunities in the job market.
  • YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of health and wellbeing services promoting physical activity.

Notes to editors – about our survey

The fieldwork for What Matters Most was conducted by YouthSight, the specialist youth research agency, between 29 January and 5 February 2016. The sample consisted of 2,005 interviews with young people between 16 and 24-years-old in England and Wales.