Monday, November 8, 2010

Generation Y and the issues confronting us

Who is Generation Y?

YouTube. Myspace. Facebook. Apple products. Laptops and Smart Phones. The Internet Generation. Echo Boomers. iGeneration. MyPod Generation. The Millenials.

They're just some of the official names out there, referring to those born between 1978 - 1994. Some fussy demographers believe it's between 1980-1990. Who cares? If you grew up with the internet and had access to it at school, then you belong in this category.

You can normally distinguish Gen Y from the other generations. They're either carrying a laptop, a smart phone, an ipod or all three. In their homes, you will find PlayStations, Xboxes and Nintendo Wii. They're the 'me, me, me' generation.

Having grown up with the internet and Google at our disposal, we even self diagnose ourselves with medical advice on the internet whenever we experience the slightest symptoms of anything. We don't have to trek out to the local library or go burrowing into encyclopaedias whenever there's a question or a desire to learn more.

What are Gen Y Challenges?

On the other hand, we grew up in a world where AID is prevalent, terrorism is never far from our minds whenever we travel by plane or celebrate New Years Eve at a crowded public venue. In a world where there's global warming, our environment is increasingly being destroyed and now our governments have handed their massive public debts for us, as taxpayers, to pay off in the future.

The biggest concern facing Gen Y - is the increasing rate of workforce casualisation. In the old days, people would work for a single company for 20-40 years. Nowadays, it's typical for employees to work for only 2-4 years with any particular employer before they jump ship. With casualisation, more employers are hiring only on a casual or permanent part time basis. Contracting is also a current faze. This makes it increasingly difficult for Gen Y'ers (and other casual employees) to get approval for home loans and to invest for retirement.

Even if Gen Y can get home loans, the biggest problem our peers face is being able to afford a home. Housing affordability for a lot of Gen Y these days is like a pie in the sky dream with interest rates and house prices rising. An Australian School of Business article writes that:
"The Reserve Bank of Australia has estimated a 40,000 annual shortage. The ANZ Banking Group estimates there was a shortage of more than 200,000 homes in 2009 and 250,000 properties in 2010, with a shortfall per annum of 30,000 dwellings. Another of Australia's big four banks, Westpac, estimated there was a shortage of 190,000 dwellings during 2009. Research house BIS Shrapnel estimates there are 160,000 too few dwellings."
Unlike the situation in America, in Australia we have insufficient housing being built to sustain our growing population.

What type of world are Gen Y growing up in?

In America, it's pretty tough from the sound of things. Some of the Gen Y over there have graduated college (the equivalent of uni over here) and there aren't any graduate jobs or work in their industry. They've resorted to casual work and job hunting without hope. With unemployment bordering 10% for some time now, it's getting rather desperate.

It will take several billions, even trillions to try to ramp the American economy up so that individuals and households feel comfortable enough to go spending again. Until they start spending, there will be no economic growth and without growth, no increasing employment. It's a vicious circle.

In Australia, it's almost mandatory to have a University education. To have not just a single degree, but double degrees and masters. As the majority of our new generation becomes increasingly educated, it gets very competitive. Although if you make an effort in this country, you can get ahead or you can get somewhere. Most Gen Y who are stuck in casual work have it very tough. It will be hard for them if they can't find full time employment.

For those with full time work or their own business, most of us travel the world and buy a lot of gadgets and toys that are forgotten, just as quickly. We are still the luckiest country in the world. There are opportunities and work everywhere if you look around.

Even with reports about the lack of housing affordability, if you try hard enough, you can save up and buy some sort of housing. There will always be someone whinging that they can't afford to buy a place. But if they cast their net wide enough, they may find an apartment or house on the fringe of the CBD, it may not have a backyard or whatever creature comforts that is deemed desirable, but it's still a place you can call home without having to answer to your landlord.

Gen Y at work

The important factors that Gen Y look for in the workforce is flexibility with working hours, telecommuting, working from home, social involvement and team work. Promotions, further education, bigger pay packets are other factors that Gen Y's are chasing. Considering our roads are so congested and peak hour travel means each trip takes four times as long as it does in off-peak travel, employers should look at ways to engage staff to work from home. It really is the way of the future.

If people can employ people from around the world to perform work for $5 per job or get people to bid for jobs, why can't employers start assessing options in order for their staff can work from home.

Generation Y is facing an increasingly diverse landscape that is at the same time, increasingly being integrated around the world due to the advancement of technology. In order to be relevant, we need to embrace the changes and the technology or else, we'll be left behind.

From a financial viewpoint, it really is sad the the baby boomers and Generation X have left the current economic environment in such a sad and sorry state. Not only are there massive national deficits to contend with, but public infrastruture, roads and buildings are falling into disrepairs. Our retirement is also something that we have to save up for because there will be no more money left in government budgets for pensions when Generation Y retires.

But, Generation Y is an adaptable lot, no matter what this world throws at us.

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