The Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996) and Generation Z (those born between 1997 and today) will comprise 50% of the global workforce by 2020 and 70% by 2025. Given the profound difference in values and beliefs between these two generations, we look at what we can expect during this seismic shift over the next decade.
Numbers in The Workforce
Millennials, the majority of whom are now established in their careers, will be 35% of the workforce by 2020. Whereas GenZ, who are only now beginning their careers, will see a big influx of their first employment cohort in the years ahead.
It is estimated that by 2025, Millennials and GenZ combined will make up 70% of the global workforce. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 3.5 billion people in the global workforce, meaning that the millions of Millennials and GenZ who are shaping their careers now will be the executives and leaders shaping the way we work and live in only a decade.
Comparing Millennials to GenZ
As we can see above, there are stark differences between the values and beliefs that have shaped each generation. Much of this can be attributed to the economic and social conditions that each generation was raised under, with the former growing up in an economic boom and the latter growing up in the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008.
Furthermore, the Millennials were pioneers in many of the earliest web applications, many of which Gen Z would have never even heard of (ICQ, Napster, and others). These apps paved the way for the apps that Gen Z – aka the mobile natives – grew up on, such as Instagram, Spotify and others.
While both generations spend a lot of time online, they both place a strong value on face-to-face connections and conversations. As mobile natives, GenZ doesn’t know a time when the mobile web didn’t exist, while most of the Millennials would have grown up in their early years without any technology; therefore, the way that technology and real life intersect can differ dramatically between the two generations depending on the use case.
Future of the Workforce
As both generations scale their presence into the workforce, the concept of work and how it relates to education will dramatically shift.
On the balance, Millennials followed the step ladder from high school to university/college to employment that was laid out by their Boomer parents. They also took the same view on debt and were willing to take larger student loans to finance expensive degrees, under the assumption it would pay off in the future. Unfortunately, in an era of globalization and post-GFC, many have failed to find meaningful, high-paying work. Many on the European continent find themselves unemployed or underemployed, while in North America many carry extremely high debt levels relative to their incomes. This has led to the Gig Economy, where workers find freelance and contract work for either their primary or secondary source of income. It is estimated that in the US, 36% of the workforce participates in the Gig Economy, while 29% have a secondary work arrangement on top of their primary job. Many underemployed young workers have enrolled in training courses related to digital marketing, coding, and other ‘future work’ skills, or for online higher-ed courses to improve their marketability and skillsets.
But GenZ is taking a radically different view. They have seen the pitfalls of student debt and the ‘buy now, pay later’ mentality and are adjusting their paths accordingly. 75% of GenZ believe ‘college isn’t the only path to a good education.’ Many are enrolling in community colleges and trade schools, and those who are going to college/university are looking at ways to save money and avoid debt rather than attending the most prestigious school. Millennials have 169% more debt than GenZ, and given that GenZ grew up with GenX parents during the 2008 GFC, they are now looking for a stable income and job security. 77% of GenZ earn money through a freelance job and 35% already have or are planning to start their own business in the future. For those that are entering the mainstream workforce, 78% have completed an internship or apprenticeship. And whether they are entrepreneurs, freelancers or employees, all of them are willing to do what it takes – move to another city, work evenings and weekend, etc – in order to save money and avoid debt. Thus we expect this more modular approach to education and work experience will dramatically impact how they approach work compared to other previous generations, with an emphasis on flexibility and continuous advancement.
Freelancing, flexibility and further education will define the future of the workforce. When you combine the mindset and outlook of each generation, you can see why the shift in the workforce will be so dramatic in the next decade, as hundreds of new workers not only onramp into the global economy, but change the nature of work itself. This will have pronounced ripple effects across all of our transportation, housing, and mobility infrastructure, which is why we have begun to study the Next-Gen Workforce today.
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