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Racism and Poverty : The Social Issues Young Europeans Are the Most Passionate About

A group of young protester on a bridge.

Found out what social causes young Europeans are most passionate about, and how current events impact their lives…


  • Nine in ten European Gen Z and Millennials are passionate about at least one social issue
  • Racism is the cause they’re most passionate about today, especially among Gen Z, overtaking COVID
  • Poverty is also a pressing social issue among European Gen Z and Millennials as they go through economic turmoil and a cost-of-living crisis

YPulse has long told you that Gen Z and Millennials are activist generations, and it continues to be the case in Western Europe: data from our recent Causes / Charity & Activism Report shows that 93% of young Europeans care about social issues. But their passion for specific social causes does change over time, depending on the issues that are impacting their lives at any moment, headlines, cultural shifts, and more. And since the majority of Gen Z and Millennials believe that all brands should do some sort of social good / charitable work, it’s important that those brands understand which causes matter to them right now.

So what are the most important causes to young Europeans today? We’ve asked them to tell us which issues they are passionate about, from a list of over 30, and here are their top answers:

The Top Social Causes They’re Passionate About

Among 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe

  1. Racism (31%)
  2. Animal Rights (27%)
  3. Poverty / Homelessness / Hunger (27%)
  4. Climate change / Environment efforts (26%)
  5. Sexual harassment / abuse (24%)
  6. Mental health help / care (24%)
  7. Cyberbullying (22%)
  8. Gender equality / sexism (21%)
  9. Economy (21%)
  10. LGBTQ discrimination / rights (21%)
  11. Education (20%)
  12. COVID-19 pandemic (20%)


Racism is the top social cause these gens are passionate about—especially Gen Z

Last year COVID-19 was the top cause young Europeans were most passionate about, but as the pandemic has worn on and become less of a focus, it has fallen out of their attention and racism is now at the top of their cause ranking. European Gen Z especially are seeing racism as an important cause,   than their Millennial counterparts. With current racial tension building in France following a recent Kurdish shooting, a movement within the French government has started, with aims to spread across Europe, making the social movement current for these gens. The debate over institutional racism and police brutality continues to be alive and well in the U.K., especially with fears it’ll grow worst without deep reform, which even UN experts have taken note of.

Brands in Western Europe are also turning their focus to the issue of racism. YPulse told you how Nike—young Europeans’ favourite American brand—decided to openly tackle the stigmas around Black swimmers. Beauty brand Gillette (one of the top-scoring YScore+ brands for reliability in our Decoding Brands Report) has also created a voice against racism by naming England footballer Raheem Sterling as the new face of their anti-racism campaign. Brands not addressing the issue of racism are at risk of a backlash from young consumers. Take the example of Knorr—one of Unilever’s brands in Germany: it took years of activism for the company to finally rename its  Hungarian Style  the original name carrying negative racial stereotypes. These examples highlight how racism is an ever-present social issue young consumers are facing daily, and that these gens want brands to take responsibility in the anti-racism battle.

Current economic instability is making poverty a more important social cause for young Europeans

The cost-of-living crisis has impacted the living standards and spending habits of young Europeans, making poverty / homelessness / hunger a bigger social cause compared to last year; moving to the top three social causes 13-39-year-olds are most passionate about. Across Western Europe, soaring inflations, energy prices, low wage growth, and global supply chain issues have impacted young consumers, and made life hard over the last year. The impact is leaving many in this region choosing between “heat or eat,” leading to an increase in news coverage of youth homelessness, and European cities are implementing solutions to curb the issues while creating further demand for food banks, and impacting more than their finances.

It’s not just in the U.K. though, French students are being hit by the current economic situation, too. Soaring prices have left up to 20% of students under the poverty lines, despite France giving more financial aid to students than many other European countries. While young Spanish consumers have turned to the more affordable option of secondhand shopping to pick up a bargain, which has seen growth through the economic instability. It shows why it’s rising as a cause these gens are passionate about, and the impact the cost-of-living crisis has had on young Europeans’ lives as they change their spending habits to adapt to what’s happening.

Brands are getting involved to help young consumers in the face of financial instability and uncertainty, and offering support for those in dire need: Aldi has fired shots at competitors with their #CutBack campaign, reminding customers of the cheaper alternatives offered in their stores, while Asda has committed to freezing the price of 250 products as part of their Dropped & Locked promise. Other supermarkets have followed suit: Morrisons introduced food parcels, and Iceland launched interest-free micro-loans. Primark, Ikea, and Santander (just to name a few more) have also took measures to either freeze prices or give extra aid to their employees. Poverty will likely remain at the forefront of young Europeans’ minds as the economic climate does not show signs of brightening up.

Some social issues are more prevalent in certain countries in Western Europe

Looking more closely at the top causes in each of the five Western European countries reveals some important differences:

Only two countries in Western Europe have the same top cause, showing that European Gen Z and Millennials are influenced by their local environments. For example, while mental health support is an important cause for young Europeans, among young Britons it’s the top cause they’re passionate about. YPulse’s data shows that live in a world where people openly talk about their mental health, so it’s a conversation these gens clearly want to keep going, and it’s also one of their top resolutions as they enter 2023.

Animal rights is the top issue that young Spanish consumers say they’re passionate about, and they are vocal about it: last week many protested to put pressure on the Spanish government to do more for animal rights. In Italy, concerns over higher temperatures and pollution are stunting the growth of the local economy, to the point that the country put itself into a state of emergency. Young Italians are feeling the threat of climate change, and the issue is on the top of their minds. YPulse told you that the environment is the biggest problem young Europeans say they’re facing, and the recent rise of youth-led environmental actions—from mass protests to throwing soup at Van Gogh paintings—underscores how much these activated generations care for the planet.