Why Is Everyone So Worried About Millennials?

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

 

America is obsessed with millennials, or, at least, our national discourse and our media coverage would suggest a fascination with them. By definition, millennials are the next generation to take on the yoke of business, politics, and culture in the United States, so the constant comparison between generations and discussion of what millennials have to offer is an understandable phenomena. People want to know who they’re hiring, who’s voting, who will be taking on decisions about their healthcare and retirement in the years to come.

So let’s take a look at who millennials are and what kind of citizens they’re turning out to be so far, what use they’re being put to, struggles they’ve had to endure, and what potential is bottled for years to come. According to Pew Research, the millennial generation is considered to be those born between 1981 and 1996. A more general definition is any person who became an adult around the year 2000.

This upcoming subsection of the population is different in a number of ways compared to past generations. When Pew Research conducted its comparisons, it looked at the silent generation (1963), the baby boomer generation (1980), and generation X (1998). Comparatively, millennials are considerably more diverse — with three times the number of Hispanic members compared to the silent generation — and better educated, with a higher percentage having obtained at least a bachelors degree. There’s also a distinct decrease in military involvement, with millennial men 10 times less likely to be veterans today than young men in the silent generation were during their time. On the other hand, women in the military have increased with this generation. Millennials are also more likely to be unmarried, and the women are more likely to work — though overall the job market has been less than kind to younger Americans growing up and struggling to find work during the Great Recession.

This brings us to the unique set of challenges faced by that generation. The economy has changed the job market, yes, but recovery is well underway. So what are the challenges most faced by milllennials with that passing? The job market hasn’t just had its ups and downs; it’s changed in a myriad of intense and fundamental ways.

Technology has changed the market. It’s reduced certain jobs in some fields, added jobs in others, and even changed the way businesses are run. Things like the news industry, publishing, even something as simple as check out counters in grocery stores.

While all generations have experienced technological advances, the sheer amount of computational power and access to information that millennials have had at their fingertips since grade-school is unparallelled,” states a report from the White House. “Computation processing power has roughly doubled every 2 years, and storage prices continue to drop.”

According to Fortune Insider, within the next decade millennials will have taken over 75% of the workforce worldwide. They’ll bring technology with them because that’s what the job market has become more tailored to. It’s what’s being taught, and it’s what job openings are looking for, meaning those who graduated with degrees in unrelated or unmarketable fields will find less and less opportunity. It’s perhaps for this reason that politicians have been putting so much emphasis on trade schools and on-the-job or for-the-job training, to help train the right worker for the jobs that are out there. Because workplaces are looking to hire, sometimes it’s simply a matter of finding the right worker, or drawing them in the right way, as the IRS is finding in its efforts to hire young workers.

Technology has also changed people’s spending habits, according to NPR. Things like cash versus credit have changed for the sake of managing how money is used; with this generation, it’s become unbelievably easy to spend money without thought. Financially speaking, millennials have had to deal with the recession, college debt, and the difficult job market, making money matters far from easy. Unfortunately that also means they’re able to take fewer risks with their jobs; a report from the Council of Economic Advisers show that younger generations are staying with their first job longer — possibly out of fear of not finding another or being unable to afford the financial risk of leaving.

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