Youth as Barometer of Socio-cultural Change in Iran
Young people are regarded as agents of socio-cultural change as well as being subject to structural forces. These dynamics of interaction between agency and structure forms the outcomes of social change in any society. Due to the baby boom around the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the resulting youth bulge in the following decades, changes in youth life could exemplify the socio-cultural changes in the Iranian society and act as an accurate barometer. The present paper aims to illustrate some of these major changes in Iran during the past four decades through a holistic overview. The main research method used in this paper is secondary analysis of data from large-scale national surveys undertaken in Iran in the last four decades. These surveys include the National Survey of Youth Values and Attitudes (seven phases in 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016), the National Survey of Iranians' Values and Attitudes (four phases in 1980, 2000, 2003, and 2015), the National Survey of Social Capital (three phases in 2004, 2014, and 2018) and the National Survey of Iranians' Religiosity (2010). Changes in youth life based on quantitative data from these surveys are cross-checked with findings of scholarly research papers indexed in the national database of humanities and social sciences (between 2010 and 2020) trough narrative literature review. Data are analyzed in the four main domains namely: education and employment, religiosity, inter-sex and family relations and media use. Overall, youth transitions in Iran have become prolonged, more risky and insecure, reversible and non-linear, as well as more individualized in line with what has been witnessed globally. However, they are characterized with distinctive features as a result of domestic socio-cultural, political and economic circumstances. Marriage has moved to the bottom of youth agenda and has led to new forms of sexual relationships, rendering youth policies such as marriage loans, grants and regulations of little impact to stop the increasing rate of singlehood. Despite extensive attempts by the hegemonic ideological apparatus, young people have developed new forms of religiosity with less emphasis on traditional rituals. Youth lifestyles are the main scene for youth agency with young people creatively using existing opportunities in the public and virtual worlds to exercise life politics.