The cost of independence: young people’s economic security - RSA

The cost of independence: young people’s economic security


  • Economy

This report shares the findings of a survey looking at the economic security of young people aged 16-24 years old in the United Kingdom.

It forms part of the RSA’s Young people’s future health and economic security project, supported by the Health Foundation as part of their Young people’s future health inquiry.

It uncovers a worrying level of economic insecurity among young people today – with around half (47 percent) experiencing financial precarity – and raises cause for concern when it comes to their current and future economic security.

We find that:

1. Young people are paying a heavy price for growing up, with their financial situation changing significantly as they move into adulthood.

Young people become more likely to face financial precarity as they get older, with the proportion rising steadily from 38 percent of 16-18-year-olds, to 48 percent of 19-21-year-olds, to 57 percent of 22-24-year-olds.

At the same time, young people also become more likely to take on debt, less likely to have savings, and less likely to be able to access support from family as they get older.

2. Neither work nor welfare is giving young people the economic security they need.

More than half (56 percent) of young people in work are experiencing financial precarity. Only a third (32 percent) feel that their work provides them with enough money to maintain a decent standard of living and around one in five (19 percent), sometimes have trouble meeting their basic living costs because their income varies each month.

Meanwhile, more than three quarters (79 percent) of young people in receipt of Universal Credit are experiencing financial precarity.

3. Economic insecurity is risking young people’s confidence in their own future health and financial wellbeing, and the future of their generation.

Almost two thirds of young people who are financially precarious are worried about their mental health (61 percent) and their future (64 percent). More than half are also worried about their financial situation (53 percent), housing situation (54 percent), employment situation (54 percent), and their physical health (54 percent).

Young people who are financially comfortable are also concerned about these things, particularly their future (50 percent) and their mental health (46 percent).

A significant proportion of young people do not believe others like them would be able to have different types of financial stability in the future, for example, owning their own home (59 percent), retiring and living comfortably (51 percent), earning enough to support a family (49 percent) or having savings they can fall back on (49 percent).

In this report we explore these survey findings in more detail and consider how policy can better protect and promote young people’s economic security.

Download the report (PDF, 739 KB)

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