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Politics is a big turn-off for Switzerland’s youth

Other things on their minds - young Swiss are turning away from politics swissinfo C Helmle

Recent studies show that young people in Switzerland and across Europe are becoming less and less interested in politics.

This content was published on October 6, 2003 - 12:55

In an attempt to reverse the trend, hundreds of delegates - including young Swiss - gathered to discuss the problem in Lucerne.

The international conference was organised by the Swiss government and the Council of Europe, under the theme “Democracy can be taught”.

The international conference was organised under the theme “Democracy can be taught”.

High on the agenda was the Council’s project “Education for Democratic Citizenship”, which emphasises the need for EU member states to teach young people to become politically active members of society.

And if a recent international study of 14 and 15 year olds is anything to go by, Switzerland has a lot to learn.

Professor Fritz Oser from Fribourg University, who co-authored the report, presented the project’s findings at the event.

Apathy

According to a comparison of 28 nations, young people in Switzerland identify with their country the least and are rather apathetic about their homeland.

They also showed below-average political knowledge and lacked awareness of major issues such as immigration.

Oser told swissinfo that young people had lost interest in politics mainly because history was no longer compulsory in schools.

“When someone loses their roots, they no longer know where they come from, which is problematic. Switzerland’s youth are not apathetic, they’re just not well educated,” he explained.

Oser is calling for courses on politics and democracy to be integrated into the Swiss education system.

“With such courses, it must be possible to convince young people of the positive power of politics.” he said.

In government we trust

On a more positive note, Swiss teenagers expressed a very high level of trust in their government in comparison with other countries.

Some analysts claim young people don’t feel the need to be active in politics because they believe politicians have everything under control.

But Oser says this theory requires further research before any concrete conclusions can be drawn.

One of the few young Swiss to attend the conference, 21-year-old Simon Denoth, believes his contemporaries would be more interested in politics if there were more young politicians.

“At the moment our interests are not properly represented in parliament. For example, parliamentarians refused to discuss the issue of cannabis, but on the other hand they legalised absinthe,” he said.

Denoth says this is typical of the way Swiss politicians ignore the interests of young people while focusing on the older generation.

swissinfo, Etienne Strebel (translated by Karin Kamp)

Key facts

About 28% of 18-25 year olds in Switzerland say they will definitely vote in the parliamentary elections on October 19, according to a survey by the Sunday newspaper “SonntagsBlick”.
24% say they will probably vote; 18% say they will probably not; and 30% say they definitely won't.
About 25% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last parliamentary elections in 1999.

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