Topic: Youth Perceptions of Resilience and of the Rural
This paper looks specifically at perceptions of rural resilience and community vibrancy. It presents data from research among young people (mainly aged 15 to 18 years) in the south-west of Ireland. As McGrath and NicGabhainn (2007: 17) note, “young people have an astute awareness of the communities within which they live, despite their lack of voice at a political level.” A transnational study across a number of EU member states concluded that the future resilience of rural areas “lies in the hands of young people who still have direct links with these areas and with agriculture -thanks to their family relationships” (National Rural Network, 2012: 37).
Adapting a rural vibrancy measuring tool that was used in a more extensive survey of citizens in an adjoining area (O’Keeffe, 2015), this paper presents largely quantitative data on young people’s perceptions of the local economy, social and cultural amenities and environmental resources. The research also looks at where young people would like to live, and where they expect to be living in the future. These, largely quantitative, findings are complemented by qualitative data from a series of focus group discussions with the survey participants, their teachers and community development workers.
Our findings reveal that most young people would like to live rurally, preferably in their home locality, but the majority do not expect to be able to do so. They express a need for greater investment in rural services, particularly transport and health. The findings show some notable gender differences, with males being more favorably disposed than females to rural living. Males are more than twice as likely as females to want to continue living in their home community. They are also more optimistic than are females about the resilience of rural communities and about their prospect of returning home if they move away to go to college or find their first job.
McGrath, B. and NicGabhainn, S. (2007). ‘Worldviews Apart? Perceptions of Place among Rural, Farm and Urban Young People in Ireland’. Youth Studies in Ireland, 2(1): 17-31.
National Rural Network (2012). Young People’s Perception of Rural Areas. Rome: Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali.
O’Keeffe, B. (2015). Community Vibrancy in North-West Europe – the Case of South Kerry. Limerick: Mary Immaculate College.