This is the second of a six-part blog series to be posted monthly, on Millennials at the Workplace — a joint study by the Emerging Markets Institute, HEAD Foundation, and UNIVERSUM.
As real wages have stagnated (and in some cases decreased) over the last decades, and youth unemployment is at record levels, you might expect millennials to hold a dismal view of their economic prospects. While pessimists exist, they are easily outnumbered by those who expect to be doing much better than their parents did in their lifetime.
We found out:
1. Millennials and Standard of Living
Across the globe, 71 percent of Millennials say they will enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents. (Just nine percent disagree!) Millennials in emerging markets in particular are much more positive about their futures. Nigerian Millennials top the list (85 percent strongly agree with the statement), and those in Western Europe tend to be most pessimistic about their prospects (just 20 percent strongly agree their standard of living will exceed their parents). Interestingly, even in the places hardest hit by the recent financial turmoil, such as Spain or Italy, only a quarter or less of Millennials think they will eventually be worse off than their parents.
2. Millennials and Retirement
How does this optimism relate to ideas Millennials hold about retirement age? We asked at what age respondents expect to retire. Those in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region projected the youngest retirement ages (58 percent expect to retire when 60 years old or younger). Chinese Millennials in particular predicted the youngest retirement age. Millennials in Central and
Eastern Europe predicted the oldest retirement ages; more than one quarter (27 percent) told us they expect to retire after the age of 70. From these answers, however, we must be careful not to imply more than the data tells us. For example, it would not be fair to assume Millennials in regions with higher average expected retirement ages (Central and Eastern Europe, North America, and Western Europe) are less confident about their financial future. After all, those findings could simply show a higher degree of confidence about future health. What we probably can safely assume is that Millennials in regions with a dramatically lower projected retirement age (APAC) feel more confident about their financial ability to do so.
3. Millennials and Their Greatest Fears
We asked Millennials about their fears related to their work life. On the whole, Millennials fear they will get stuck with no development opportunities (40 percent), that they will not realize their career goals (32 percent) and that they won’t find a job that matches their personality (32 percent). What’s interesting, however, is the degree to which certain regions have what we’ll call “outlier fears”—or responses that were significantly different from their peers in other areas of the globe. For example, only in Latin American did Millennials feel acutely conscious of not realizing their career goals (49 percent) and in the Middle East, almost half of Millennials (46 percent) worried they would not find a job that matched their personality. In Africa, more Millennials worried they would not get the chances they deserved because of their ethnic background (22 percent)—a finding that differed significantly from the average across other regions (12% North America, 13% Middle East, LATAM 2% and
CEE 1%). Also interesting, Africans simply do not have the same preponderance of worries as their peers in other regions. (And we can rule out the possibility they did not find our survey’s multiple-choice answers adequate because only 7 percent —roughly equivalent with many other regions—chose “other.”) On the African continent, the most commonly identified fear was getting stuck with no development opportunities, but that answer was chosen by only 28 percent (compared to Central and Eastern Europe, where 50 percent chose it). On the whole, Africans simply chose fewer worries than their peers in other regions.
Implications for Employers
Through our research, we wanted to test (a) whether statements such as these hold up to testing and (b) to what extent these ideas hold true across different regions of the globe. Not surprisingly, we found that while certain ideas do indeed tend to be true across regions
(e.g. a desire to attain a leadership role), there is a tremendous degree of variability region-by-region, and country-by-country. Millennials confidence about their future professional lives is no different. For employers, the findings should awaken their thinking about how to recruit, onboard, and retain Millennials across different regions. What inspires (and worries) a Millennial in North America is quite different from that which inspires those in the APAC countries.
- How will employers in Latin America deal with the very real fear among Millennials of not realizing their career goals?
(49 percent of Latinos cited this fear, while it drew a response from less than one third in other areas of the globe.)
- How should employers address that almost one third of North American Millennials fear working too much (for all other regions the proportion that chose it was significantly less and as low as 15 percent in Latin America).
Employers must identify the areas of talent management that are most affected by these differences. For example, training and development must adapt to regions where Millennials believe they may get stuck with no professional development opportunities. And recruiters in the Middle East, for example, must find a way to address the common fear among Millennials that their job won’t match their personality. Ultimately talent management leaders need to ensure their Millennial-targeted strategies are based on robust country-level research and the preferences of professional cohorts (e.g. understanding how 20-something engineers in Italy prefer to work), rather than perceived attitudes and unfair stereotypes applied to Millennials as a whole. Finally, employers should ensure their HR organizations understand Millennials are a diverse group, a generation quite unlike the stereotypes we’ve been taught to believe over the last decade.
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