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Millennials and Gen Z ambivalent about business

The global financial crisis (GFC) of the late 2000s has had a lasting impact on the outlook of millennials and Gen Zs, with people in these generations expressing less faith in traditional institutions and more scepticism of business’s motives.

That is according to Deloitte’s 2019 Millennial Survey released on Tuesday, which is based on responses from 16,000 young people around the world.

The report confirms previous studies that millennials and Gen Zs value experiences over things – they aspire to travel and help their communities more than start families or their own businesses – and that they align with companies that reflect their own values.

But it also reveals some of the more worrying traits among this consumer cohort: they don’t think highly of business leaders’ trustworthiness or impact on society, and they are not particularly satisfied with their lives, jobs, government, business leaders, or the way their data is being used.

The report links these traits back to the GFC, which occurred when older millennials were just entering the job market, and may have seen the parents of Gen Zs losing their jobs.

“In business, disruption can promote innovation, growth, and agility. That, in turn, creates powerful and progressive business models, economic systems, and social structures. But unbridled disruption also has a downside, one that’s apparent in the 2019 Millennial Survey results,” the report states.

The report suggests that the disruption caused by the GFC has altered the outlook and behaviour of these generations, and that they differ in significant ways from older groups of people.

One key difference is that the traditional “success markers” – having children and buying a home – do not top the list of priorities of millennials and Gen Z. Instead, travel and seeing the world was at the top of the list for 57 per cent of respondents, while only 49 per cent said they wanted to own a home.

Intertwined with this are their views about the economy. Slightly more than half of millennials think their personal financial situations will worsen or stay the same in the next year, while 43 per cent think it will improve. Only 26 per cent said they expect the economic situations in their countries to improve in the coming year, the lowest level since Deloitte started the study six years ago.

At the same time, nearly half of millennials – 49 per cent – said they would quit their current jobs in the next two years if they had a choice, up from 38 per cent in 2017. The reasons include dissatisfaction with pay and lack of advancement and professional development opportunities.

Aside from their own employment, they have an increasingly negative view of business from a consumer perspective, with only 55 per cent saying business has a positive impact on wider society, down from 61 per cent in 2018. Only 37 per cent of millennials believe business leaders make a positive impact on the world.

This attitude goes hand in hand with their purchase habits. Forty-two per cent of millennials have begun or deepened a business relationship because they perceive the company’s products or services as having a positive impact on society or the environment, and 37 per cent have stopped or lessened a business relationship because of its unethical behaviour.

About a third have stopped or lessened a relationship because of the amount of personal data the company requests. And a quarter have done the same because of the company’s inability to protect their private data, or because of the way the company tracks or customises their shopping and online behaviour.

The report also shows that millennials and Gen Zs are becoming more critical of social media, with nearly two thirds saying they would be phyiscally healthier if they reduced the time spent on social media, and 55 per cent saying that it does more than good.

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