Fostering Social Trust Among Youth: A Path to Prosperity and Well-being (the Case of Lithuania)

In today’s world, building trust, especially among young people, is of great importance. This blog post will shed light on what social trust is all about and why it is so important, especially for our youth.

Understanding Social Trust
Before we look at why promoting social trust among youth is so important, we should be clear about what social trust means. According to researchers M. Bartuškaitė and A. Žilys, it is about people’s experiences in society and the strength of their relationships. In simpler terms, it is about how much people trust not only their friends but also strangers they meet. U. Andreasson adds that it is about how individuals value human nature, the belief that strangers generally follow social norms and are not out to harm others. Essentially, social trust reflects how a person perceives the moral fabric of their society.

Why Social Trust Matters
So why is social trust so important? Well, according to Mr. Andreasson, it plays a crucial role in economic growth. Societies with high social trust tend to have fewer bureaucratic problems, less conflict, and less dependence on legal procedures. Economically, this leads to more efficiency, less time spent on paperwork and smoother operations. Christian Bjørnskov from Aarhus University even estimates that a modest ten per cent increase in social trust can boost a country’s economy by half a percentage point.

But it doesn’t stop with economics. Research shows that trust has far-reaching effects. People who have trust are more likely to seize opportunities and actively engage in society. It is linked to greater social participation, less crime and greater personal happiness.

The Youth and Social Trust

Let us now concentrate on the younger generation. In Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, social trust is a topic of interest. Research shows that social trust is relatively low in Lithuania. It is interesting to note that this is not only due to the Soviet era, as today’s youth were born into an independent Lithuania and learned about the Soviet past through history lessons, museums, and family stories.

The European Social Survey paints a picture of the situation: young adults aged 18-29 rate their social trust as satisfactory. However, compared to their peers in Estonia and Poland, trust scores in Lithuania range from 4.77 to 5.84, indicating that there is still room for improvement.

The Impact of the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the way young people form social bonds and made them more vulnerable. These bonds are particularly important at this stage of life. Societies with high social trust, such as those in the Nordic region, have fared better. For example, in Finland, a country known for its high levels of happiness, young people rated their trust an impressive 6.6 out of 10 in 2020, while Lithuania scored 5.2.

Challenges and Solutions
Low social trust in Lithuania brings economic and social challenges. It leads to a focus on personal interests and reliance on a small circle of acquaintances, which limits participation in communities. To solve this problem, researchers from Kaunas University of Technology have joined forces with partners from Austria, the Netherlands and Norway. Together, they are working on innovative Urban Living Labs to encourage young people to participate in civic life. This proactive approach aims to foster social trust among youth and pave the way for a better future.

Building social trust among young people is not only a noble goal but a crucial one. It has the potential to boost economic growth, increase overall well-being and promote social cohesion. By investing in the social trust of our youth, we lay the foundation for a prosperous and harmonious future.