8.1 General context
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The most recent major surveys on the cultural participation of young people reveal certain cultural behavioural trends among French youngsters:
Young people and reading
The National book centre (Centre national du livre - CNL), a public institution under the authority of the Ministry of Culture, conducted a national survey in 2022 with the polling company Ipsos on young French people and reading. The main findings of this study, carried out among young people aged 7 to 25, were as follows:
- A general attraction to reading: 84% of the young people questioned said they enjoyed reading. 11% said they "don't really like reading" and 5% said they "hate reading".
- 81% of 7-25 year-olds read 'for personal enjoyment' and spend an average of 3 hours 14 minutes a week reading.
- Most 7-19 year-olds read comics (55%), novels (46%) and manga (40%). The most popular novel genres are science fiction, fantasy and adventure.
- The 20-25 age group are also predominantly readers of novels (58%), followed by manga (30%) and comics (25%).
- Digital reading is becoming increasingly common among young people: 40% of 7-25 year-olds have already read a digital book and 59% have already listened to an audio book.
The study demonstrates the impact of the family environment on reading practices: the children who read the most have parents who are regular readers themselves and have a high level of education.
A double survey carried out by Harris interactive and the Centre De Recherche Pour L'Etude Et L'Observation Des Conditions De Vie (Credoc) presents the cultural and leisure habits of French people aged 15 and over at the start of 2022.
56% of French people aged 15 and over say they have been on at least one cultural outing since 1 September 2021, and 71% say they would like to go on one in the first half of 2022. According to Harris interactive, this behaviour has been affected by the health crisis, with 59% of French people (all ages) worried about contracting Covid-19. In January 2022, 35% of French people said they had given up certain cultural outings because of the requirement to wear a mask.
According to a study on the cultural and artistic practices of young people in 2019 (latest data available) carried out by Injep, young people cite the following reasons as preventing them from taking part in cultural activities:
- cost: 50%
- Lack of time, 43
- 25% cited travel constraints
- 11% of young respondents said they did not take part in cultural activities because they were "afraid of going to an unfamiliar place".
According to this study, 'cultural omnivorism', i.e. the fact of varying one's cultural outings, is not yet considered to be accessible to everyone. Young people with more qualifications go on more varied cultural outings: 31% of them have been on four or five types of cultural outing, compared with 21% of those with fewer qualifications.
According to the study, there is also a gap between young people who are in work and those who are unemployed: 14% of unemployed young people did not go out at all, compared with 6% of young people in work. The Injep study also highlights the impact of place of residence, with 15% of people living in an urban unit of 200,000 having gone on between 6 and 7 different types of cultural outing over a 12-month period, compared with 9% of young people living in a rural community.
Eurobarometers are used to compare the cultural practices and participation of young people in France with those of other European countries. According to Special Eurobarometer 399, 'Access and participation', conducted by the European Commission in 2013 (latest data available), the index of cultural practices among young people in France is at an average level. It stands at 17% for 15-24 year-olds, compared with 26% for Europeans of the same age. Young people under 15 have the highest index of cultural practice (38%). The survey also identifies obstacles to accessing and participating in culture: lack of interest, too high a cost, limited choice, lack of information.
The data from these surveys reveal the challenges facing public cultural policies for young people: acting on these obstacles by arousing interest, facilitating access to cultural practices and structures, developing the cultural offer and promoting it.
Of the concepts most strongly characterising cultural public policy, it would be worth mentioning: "cultural democratisation", the notion of "heritage" and the concept "of cultural exception".
"Cultural democratisation" defines the fact of making culture accessible to as many people as possible. This ambitious idea forms one of the cornerstones of cultural public policies – those of the Ministry of Culture more specifically. Ever since it was first created back in 1959, the latter has been "tasked with making the key works of humanity, and of France first and foremost, accessible to as many French citizens as possible […]" in the words of the writer André Malraux, ministre d’État, who was entrusted with founding the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
For fifty years, this principle has long been the subject of debate: two approaches to democratisation have thus been pitted against each other, one so-called "elitist" approach which involves fostering access for all to "classical" or "erudite" culture, and the other involving broadening the notion of culture and recognising cultural plurality and equality (rural or urban culture for example). These debates have shaped and organised the crafting and implementation of cultural policy. Against this backdrop, some have preferred to talk of the concept of "cultural democracy" rather than of cultural democratisation. By cultural democracy, we mean the recognition "of the diversity of aesthetic experiences", cultures and the lack of any hierarchy between the latter.
These days, the various cultural stakeholders, the Ministry of Culture included, are seeking a balance between these approaches, especially when it comes to developing cultural youth policies. Cultural democratisation and the recognition of new cultures (such as digital for example) remain at the heart of cultural youth initiatives.
In a similar way to cultural democratisation, the notion of "heritage" is one of the linchpins of French cultural public policy. Heritage defines "the common legacy" of a society. For a long time confined to monuments and museums, the notion of heritage has since broadened to encompass intangible cultures. According to the Ministry of Culture, these concern, for example "oral, musical or choreographic traditions, languages as vehicles of these traditions, traditional sports and games, festive events, local craft know-how and knowledge linked to what we know about nature or the universe". Heritage forms a distinct sector in its own right of cultural initiatives and policies, particularly those aimed at young people. Such initiatives set out to help young people to get personally to grips with heritage themselves.
The notion of cultural exception, promoted by France since the 1980s, is based on the idea that culture is not a commercial product like any other. Although its economic dimension does need to be taken into account, the role that culture plays in the personal development of each citizen as well as that of society means that this economic sector is a common good; this then requires the public authority's involvement to ensure there is an ongoing cultural offering that is of high-quality, varied and accessible to as many people as possible.