With Buzzfeed calling them the ‘burnout generation’ and the Business Insider claiming that they are a cohort that are emotionally struggling, the media has dedicated a vast amount of time to sensationalising the financial struggles, inexorable challenges, and hardship faced by the generation that we categorise as ‘The Millennials.’ Although there is minor discrepancy from various sources surrounding their exact dates, for the purposes of this article Millennials shall be defined as those who are born between 1980 and 1994, or in other words, they are individuals who today have an age range from 25 to 39 years old.
Yet, with all this discussion surrounding Millennials I often find myself asking the following question: ‘what about Generation Z?’
Generation Z are those born roughly between 1995 and 2015. Whilst those at the top end of the scale are too young to be making significant changes to the world, I believe that individuals born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s represent an age demographic (16-24) that is probably one of the most unique cohorts that we have had to deal with today.
Generation Z were the first generation that grew up in the age of widespread accessible internet and social media. We often term Millennials to be the ‘internet generation’. However, with the youngest of this cohort being 25, it would be incorrect to say that they grew up in the internet age. Generation Z were the first generation as a whole who had to navigate their adolescent formative years around social media interactions. Moreover, as only teenagers and children they were the generation that had to deal with the consequences of this unknown territory. They are more likely to watch YouTube over TV, do their shopping online rather than instore, and prefer instant messaging to emailing. Retailers and businesses will need to re-orientate their marketing strategies to reflect this generational change greatly.
Generation Z are the generation that are born into the age of modern global security. Whilst being too young to remember 9/11, they grew up in a global environment that was oriented to deal with the consequences of this act. They have known no other type of global security.
Generation Z are the cohort that are graduating (in the UK) with the most student debt in British history. Whilst many sources claim that this is a defining feature of the Millennials, these sources are primarily American and do not reflect the situation in the UK.
Generation Z are more likely to delay adulthood. With more in this generation staying in school until 18, and then attending university for another 3+ years, Generation Z do not even start climbing the career ladder until at least 21. This in turn means that social constructs such as marriage and desires to have children fall later on in life too.
Whilst many Millennials reading this list may relate to nearly all of these challenges, it is important to remember that their childhood was not influenced by these aforementioned points; rather they were exposed to these issues at a later stage in life.
Now the purpose of this article was never to unleash a media frenzy of hatred towards Millennials or to debunk the hardship that they face in the current global climate. Each generational group has had equally diverse and respectfully difficult problems to face for their particular time. For example ‘Baby Boomers’ faced the task of understanding technology, and ‘Generation X’ are thought to be ‘burned very badly on all sides’ by both the housing market and their career ambitions; yet the media seems to disproportionately dwell on solely the struggles of the Millennials (probably because the authors of these articles are Millennials themselves!)
In that respect I have probably fallen into the same trap as these other writers. As a member of Generation Z I want to voice the challenges that my own generation face. Yet, my desire is not to showcase that my generation has it the hardest; it is simply to demonstrate that the Millennials alone are not a unique group of individuals that suffer from these challenges and the media should stop framing them as being unique in this sense. Each generational cohort compounds the challenges of their predecessors whilst also simultaneously having to deal with new problems that arise.
Thus, with the current 16-24 age cohort entering the workforce, now is the best time to start talking about Generation Z.