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Swiss struggle with the demands of adulthood

Of age at 18, but not necessarily fully-grown.

(imagepoint)

Young Swiss adults have had difficulty coping with greater responsibility since the voting age was lowered from 20 to 18 ten years ago.

The country's debt advisory bureau says one of the biggest challenges for young people is managing their own money.

The umbrella organisation said youth had great difficulty dealing with credit cards, car leasing contracts and filing their own tax returns.

Studies in recent of years have found that two in three young people between 18 and 24 admit to having a problem keeping their spending under control.

"School teaches young people about their voting rights but not about their duty as tax-paying citizens," said Markus Langenegger of canton Bern's tax department.

However, other experts said Swiss youth are ill prepared to take on the additional responsibility that comes with being of age, and there are few places for them to turn for help.

"A significant number of youth don't know how to deal with their new rights," said Matthias Drilling of Basel's college of education.

"Society now recognises that youth [from 18 years of age] have equal rights," said Julien Jaeckle of the Swiss council of youth associations.

But he said he was disappointed with the level of support they receive from society.

Learning to be a citizen

"The commitment expected of citizens has to be taught like reading and writing, and if possible, by the family," he said.

The Geneva sociologist, Dominique Gros, said young people are not as well integrated as they were 10 to 15 years ago, when the voting age was 20.

Gros said even though they tend to mature physically and mentally at an earlier age, they are entering the workforce ever later, and therefore come later into the adult world.

"Once many students come of age, they lose respect for their teachers," the sociologist said of one of the problems.

He said having the right to vote would remain symbolic as long as it was not accompanied by financial independence that comes with being a member of the workforce.

A worrying trend over the past few years has been an increase in the number of 18- to 25-year-olds receiving welfare benefits.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

According to the Swiss secretariat for economic affairs, 4.7% of 15-24 year olds were unemployed in 2004.
The figure for 25 to 49 year olds was 3.8%.
20% of those seeking professional help to deal with their debts are between 20 and 30 years of age.

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