This week we look at the Millennials (born 1982 to 1999).
Mostly the kids of Baby Boomers, Millennials grew up in physical comfort during the 1990s and 2000s. Their parents sheltered them (leading to criticism they were raising a mollycoddled generation), they weren’t beaten as kids, their schedules were kept full during childhood.
They received good educations and grew up in a world where computers were omnipresent, securing them the label ‘digital natives’. They also Napstered around the internet as kids or teens and were the first generation exposed to social media.
They grew up in a world of multi-tasking, which made them somewhat unfocused. This lack of focus isn’t helped by the tyranny of choice they face. Which degree should I pursue? Having the options to study anything, anywhere and to pursue any career, Millennials doubted their decisions. Am I really in and on the right course? Surely there is more to life than creating spreadsheets?
Motivational TED talks and seeing their parents work in well-paid jobs that weren’t their real passion made Millennials obsess about meaningful work. It’s not enough to collect a nice paycheck, the job must also be aligned with a deeper inner purpose.
Millennials do wonderful things in search of meaningful work. They are an entrepreneurial generation (much needed after the relative lack of entrepreneurial drive of Gen X), starting businesses in the search for meaning, investing in sustainable and social ventures, and pushing Big Business to take social corporate responsibilities more seriously.
The obsession with meaningful work also has a dark side. I call this ‘work-image-issues’ – the office equivalent of body-image-issues where you look at the sexy models and bodybuilders on Instagram and start disliking your own status quo.
It will be impossible to align the 13 million jobs in Australia with the passions of the 13 million workers. This is a serious issue for Millennials – take their concerns seriously and help your Millennial colleagues, friends, or even yourself to not let the obsession with meaningful work get you down.
I suspect that the Millennial obsession with meaningful work slowly will come to an end anyway. Millennials have finally reached the family formation stage of the lifecycle. They will gain meaning and purpose from their families, rather than relying solely on work to fill the void that the lack of religion left behind.
Now that they’ve outgrown their inner-city one- or two-bedroom apartments, Millennials are looking for three- or four-bedroom dwellings. These dwellings aren’t available or affordable in the inner-city, and so Millennials are ‘hipsterising’ the urban fringe and regional Australia.
Home ownership will be the number one issue for Millennials throughout the 2020s, and Millennials will be the main driver of the housing market too. Since housing is extremely expensive, they’d be excused for asking the Bank of Mum and Dad for a little advance on their inheritance – this bank, of course, only has branches in the wealthier spheres of society. Maybe Millennials will inherit some money soon? After all, we hear a lot about some big wealth transfer occurring being imminent.
When will Millennials lose their parents and inherit money at scale? Not any time soon. The wealth transfer will occur when their mothers (who will outlive their husbands) die. At scale this will take place in the 2030s and 2040s. The peak year for intergenerational wealth transfer reaching the Millennials will be around 2041.
That’s another two decades out. Millennials will need to pay for housing themselves, and they will need to do so in an unaffordable environment and a housing market that is stacked against them.
Anger and frustration won’t fix any problems. I suspect that Millennials will instead continue to move away from the big cities to regional hubs, simply because that is where they can afford housing. The regional cities in turn will need to cope with an influx of population. There is a real chance that the Millennials’ need for family-sized housing is the long-hoped-for catalyst events that allows Australia to decentralise population growth.
This idea, of course, only works when we build massive infrastructure connecting the regions with the capital cities (much needed anyways to counteract the hollowing out of the workforce and create middle-skilled jobs).
Regional towns also must make enough land available to allow for growth to occur. If state and federal governments don’t encourage local governments to accommodate growth by investing in schools, hospitals, and other amenities we will see local leaders blocking regional development. If this were the case, Millennials would lose out yet again on another avenue of affordable housing.
Millennials are the largest tax paying group throughout the 2020s and have a right to demand that infrastructure is built that directly improves their lives.