Don't Dismiss Millennials

As the largest generation in history, there are approximately two billion Millennials worldwide at 30% of the global population and outnumbering Baby Boomers, who were previously the largest. In Western democracies, this breaks down to 180 million in the United States, between 10 and 24 million across Europe, and 5 and 9 million in Canada and Australia, respectively.

 Currently aged 18 to 38, Millennials will be 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Millennials vastly outnumber every other generation in developing and emerging countries, where the average age of some nations are in the low twenties and even high teens, as well as in many established democracies with their higher median ages. American Millennials alone are the third largest segment in the world, behind Asia and Africa, at 56% of the country’s population and 35% of the workforce. 

As Baby Boomer retirement accelerates, Millennials have come of age. Our generation are the leadership our societies need and are fully capable of leading the positive transformational evolution that’s beginning to take place. The legacy of Millennials, and what the future will look like under our leadership, will begin with the dismantling of that which burdens us and those who are incapable of adapting. We are already paying the price for the mistakes of previous generations. Now it’s up to us to take those lessons and apply them moving forward for the system to improve. We must accept the challenges we are faced with and choose to lead with solutions, otherwise our generation will become part of the problem as time goes on.

Millennials have skin in the game now. Born between 1980 and 2000, the oldest Millennials are in their late-thirties. We are well-established in our careers, and hold leadership, senior, and middle management positions. Many of us have families and homes. Millennials want to create positive change now, to serve as both our legacy and as the foundation of the futures of our children and beyond, and we are enabled to create this change quickly because of the advantages digital communication offers. We see how many of our peers are still unemployed or underemployed in what should be the most prosperous societies. We see the choices and opportunities, or lack thereof, available to us. We see how our taxes are being managed or mismanaged. We see how decisions are made, successful or ineffectual, and whether these strengthen or weaken our fundamental democratic and human rights. And we’ve reached the conclusion, particularly after watching our Baby Boomer parents struggle within the structures the eldest in their own generation created and beyond, that we will not live the same way.

 

Libertarians with a Social Conscience

Millennials differ from previous generations of young people in that we’ve grown up alongside the birth and development of digital technology; elder Millennials still remember dial-up internet and life before cell phones. We are globally-minded because that’s the experience and understanding of life we grew up with. Access to information does not mean Millennial values and attitudes are in a constant state of flux. All the information available to us provides greater understanding of the potential in the interconnectedness and complexity across our planet.

The inherent globalization in digital technology instilled in us the expectation of freedom – the right to search and learn, to travel and live elsewhere, to take risks and try unique life paths, and especially, freedom from fear and the abuse of the elites, which has developed into a strong desire to take on leadership roles that matter.

While Millennials are challenging the traditional workplace, consumer marketing, and fascinated by visionaries like Elon Musk, this disruption and innovation vision for the future is complemented with our love for old records and real books because we value the tangible and authentic. We strive for a tailored, customizable lifestyle and ignore unattainable hype, which is why traditional marketing and advertising no longer work.

With the Internet and spread of information worldwide, Millennials have unlimited access to information to inform our ideas on how to improve the state of the world. We don’t need government and media commentators telling us the right way to do anything. We look at these talking heads and ask ourselves, if they had known the answers all along as they claim to know them now, wouldn’t our societies’ problems be far fewer or on a credible path to resolution? Hypocrisy has been the most potent death blow to the credibility of institutions, from the Millennial perspective.

Millennials believe government has the potential to create a lot of good and positive impact on society yet is failing to do so because of the people running the show. Neither do we necessarily think government has a lot, or should have a lot, of influence in society. We care deeply about freedom of choice, whether we choose to exercise those choices personally or not. To put it simplistically, Millennials are libertarians with a social conscience. Live, and let live, and do what you can to improve the lives of others, or at the very least not cause harm.

Likewise, Millennials believe in the positive contribution potential business has for society, but we still prioritize our personal values – we believe organizational and personal values should be shared. We believe private business should be more influential in triggering economic growth than government, but that influence should be spread out, not monopolized. Despite what may be assumed, we rate non-governmental organizations and charities at the bottom of the list in terms of institutions that have influence and the potential to create positive change in society. 

Changing the Rules

These descriptions of Millennials are not entirely unique to Millennials – they describe human beings of all generations or of a particular mindset at a certain time of life. Much of what Millennials are facing right now are characteristic of a phase of life. What is unique, however, is the present context within which Millennials have come of age, and this context is the lens through which Millennials view both the past and the future and see why we are on the precipice of significant change.

For decades, the Baby Boomer generation created and reinforced certain cultural norms across society to their benefit. Evolution is supposed to take place but in democratic politics and government there has been minimal, if any, evolution. This is not to say revolutionary overhaul or lack of respect for tempered steps forward, but in many ways a devolution is taking place. In comfortable conditions growth and innovation stagnate, and robust and responsive leadership isn’t a priority when the whole system is based upon multi-level self-reinforcement of people used to getting their way. Millennials can’t afford to live this way, incredibly frustrated and disempowered to retain and maintain control over our own lives, unable to protect and defend ourselves from those who abuse our systems and institutions for their own benefit.

We have record levels of consumer (and public) debt and many are either unemployed or underemployed, unable to financially dig ourselves out and get ahead.

We can’t afford home ownership.

Our taxpayer funded public healthcare systems still require us to pay out of pocket for necessities like prescriptions, dental, or hospital care.

Increasingly unaffordable home prices, utilities, and property taxes (and sizes and lots that are older and smaller) mean we struggle to create stability, feel the accomplishment of ownership, and build equity for our future.

New parents are forced to choose between having income to provide the basics and being present to raise and care for families as healthy, happy humans for a healthy, happy society. Or we opt out of parenthood altogether.

Public education systems are failing to teach children basic math and literacy, let alone preparing them to become competitive adults in an evolving workforce, all while teacher unions demand lesser workloads and more pay and benefits, and administrators receive, in some cases, higher salaries than the national political leaders of our countries.

The cost of a parent or grandparent living in a retirement and long-term care home is equal to an indulgent mortgage.

We have no pension or old age security to fall back on.

Millennials want to make the world a better place. The inherent globalization in digital technology instilled in us the expectation of freedom – the right to search and learn, to travel and live elsewhere, to take risks and try unique life paths, and especially, freedom from fear and the abuse of the elites, which has developed into a strong desire to take on leadership roles that matter.