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Our recent survey on working millennials across five countries revealed strong generation envy in those between the ages of 18 and 35 years. In the ‘Millennials: Work, Life & Satisfaction’ study, asked to compare their own situations with those of their parents, around 50 percent in the United States and the UK said they believed their parents were in a better financial position at the same age. This belief was stronger among those with families.
The Allianz survey interviewed 1,000 employed people in China, Germany, India, the UK and the U.S.1. What emerged in all five countries is a clear impression that millennials believe they have lost out in comparison to the benefits enjoyed by their parents’ generation.
For example, social benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits. Over 40 percent of the respondents (39 percent in China) believe that social benefits have declined since their parents’ time (around 30 percent felt they were unchanged). The feeling was the strongest in the U.S., where 62 percent believed this was the case. Sixty percent or more in all countries, excluding China (43 percent), agree or mostly agree that job security has also weakened. Again, the feeling was the strongest among Americans (64 percent), followed by Germans (63 percent) and Indians (60 percent). In the U.S. (64 percent) and the UK (60 percent), there was also a strong feeling that economic prospects have deteriorated, while 52 percent of Indian millennials held the same opinion.
1. Chinese and Indian respondents were predominantly well educated and based in major cities. Given their background, the data cannot be considered representative of millennials in general in these two countries.
Not surprisingly, given these views, millennials believe their parents were happier at the same age. In India, 79 percent of respondents hold this view, while in China it is 71 percent. In the U.S., the figure is 60 percent, and in the UK, it is 55 percent.
“What emerges from the survey is a strong belief among millennials in all countries that conditions have deteriorated compared to those their parents enjoyed,” says Dominik Hahn, Global Head of People Attraction at Allianz.
These impressions have undoubtedly been fostered by the financial crisis and recession, which put millions of people out of work, severely hit economies and depressed wages for a decade.
“When discussing millennials, there is a tendency to say they are different because they are the first digital generation,” Hahn says. “However, an iPhone is not a magic wand that frees you from basic human needs. The survey reveals a high level of insecurity among the young concerning their lives, and a strong feeling of instability in terms of their careers.”
The gloomy outlook is reinforced by the beliefs millennials hold on the way the workplace will change over the next ten years. Millennials overall believe the number of fixed jobs will continue to decline and more work will be done by machines and computers.
In the jobs that remain, work is expected to become more demanding and pressure to perform is seen increasing. Respondents in all countries also strongly believe that people will need to move more often to find suitable employment.
Yet, despite the many hurdles they see ahead, millennials surprisingly believe that they personally have a bright future. Around 90 percent in China, India and the U.S. expect their lives to improve in the next five years (Germany 74 percent, UK 71 percent).
“I find it notable, however, that given the outlook of respondents concerning the prospects of their generation, in their own individual cases they remain overwhelming positive,” says Hahn. “I suppose that is the energy and optimism of youth.”
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