One word that has been thrown around pretty loosely over the last decade or so is ‘millennials’. This word can sometimes be accompanied with thoughts of savvy, dynamic, futuristic kids with heads facing downwards 80% of the time, browsing through social media, with no recollection of a world without smartphones.
Some others imagine this generation in a more positive light, as the younger generations born with a native ability to understand digital technology and are better able to integrate it, more intuitively and quickly, into their jobs.
This ability, in the world in which we live, is a crucial aspect that differentiates millennials among older workers. But the question of who exactly is a millennial, what are their age groups and what are the their characteristics comes to the fore. Read on to find out what is the real millennial definition.
Although ‘Millennial’ is the name given to the generation born around the turn of the millennium, its meaning is one with varying ideas on who exactly belongs in this generation.
An analysis by Pew Research Center mentions the historical, economic and technological milestones that define millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996.
This means that persons who entered adulthood in the 21st century are typically referred to as millennials. However, according to studies by Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of ‘Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069’, millennials refers to persons born between 1982 and 2004.
In short, those between the ages of 15 – 37 will certainly fall in the millennial’s generation.
They are also described as the products of Generation X; the ‘baby boomers’ generation. The 1980’s was viewed as the beginning of their birth years; who are often the children of baby boomers.
With the millennial’s year range cutting across so many years, some, especially those born in the early 80s, will have memories that make them much more similar to baby boomers than those born in the 2000s.
For example, landlines, walkmans, public telephone booths, black and white television and rotary phones which were a regular feature among baby boomers, while still being familiar to older millennials. However, for the younger ones, these old school tools all sound like ancient history.
Other emerging descriptions include Generation Y or Digital Natives. Both pertain to individuals that grew up in a world where computers have become a matter of course; social networks have prevailed and advertising is more present than ever.
What years are the millennials?
The age typically falls within the years 1980s and the 2000s although quite a number of researchers are not entirely in agreement of what years exactly constitute the millennial year range. According to the Pew Research Center, millennial birth years fall between 1981 – 1996.
The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Los Angeles Times all agree with the Pew Research Center’s millennials year range which also enjoys a great deal of support with the American Psychological Association, the Federal Reserve Board, Ernst and Young, Gallup Inc., MSW Research and the Resolution Foundation; all mentioned organisations use the 1980–1996 millennials year range in their articles and studies.
Other point of view
However, other organisations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers tend to see things differently; using the 1981 to 1995 year range while Nielsen Media Research definition is between 21 and 37 years old as of 2018.
According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, the years 1980–1999 best describes them. Going with the U.S PIRG description, those who are born between 1983 and 2000.
In a press release done in 2015, the United States Census Bureau described millennials using the 1982 to 2000 year range. This conflict in the age range has left other organisations such as Caveat concluding that no official start and end date is yet to be released for when millennials were born.
Some older baby boomers would probably struggle with the idea of the generation having challenges. They appear to have been born into a life of ease where significant advancements have already been made in science, technology and women rights among others. So, what exactly do millennials have to worry about?
Truth is, there are a host of challenges which they face.
Millennials make up the larger part of the population with over 85-90 million people in the US alone. As they happen to be the most educated generation in history, with that many young folks running around with juicy credentials, this means much more competition for the few plum jobs out there.
Unemployment and underemployment
This ultimately sets the bar higher for applicants as well as increases unemployment and underemployment. Unlike in the earlier generations where possessing a degree was enough to have one set for life, with millennials, an individual is just another qualified person in the frustrated throng of college graduates.
Unemployment is yet another problem that has hit this generation hard. According to the U.S. census data, 40% of those unemployed in the country are classified as such.
A point further buttressed by Andrew Hanson, a research analyst at Georgetown University when he stated how surprised he was by the high unemployment rate for this specific generation.
Unemployment is now becoming a youth problem.
Add to that the few people who manage to secure a job are earning far less than in the past. Statistics have it that average earnings are currently at the lowest ever seen since 1980. Between the years 2009 and 2013, millennials typically earned about $33, 883 per annum whereas in the year 2000 the average annual pay was about $37, 355. Talk about a drop in fortunes!
Little wonder millennials have been reported to have the highest depression and stress levels. According to a survey carried out by USA Today, stress levels of this generation, especially those between the 18 – 33 year range, is at an all-time high while those of other age groups are dropping.
With problems, such as the earlier mentioned, it is quite understandable why they are experiencing such significant stress levels.
There are significant differences with millennials and the prior generation X; the baby boomers. One that is readily noticeable is the postponement of typical ‘hallmarks’ of adulthood such as getting married, buying a house with a picket fence and two kids all before the age of 30.
Tending to start having kids at a much later age; some well into their late thirties and early forties. Some even do not see the need to reproduce at all, which is yet another millennial problem.
Marriage and partnerships
Getting married used to be an enviable goal that was widely considered the ultimate achievement especially for young women. Nowadays, the millennial characteristic is to have civil partnerships or just move in together with marriage being put on the back burner.
Marriage is often regarded by many millennials as being little more than a piece of paper that has more to do with the possible loss of assets in the event of a divorce than a symbol of commitment.
There are some characteristics much more apparent, especially in the workplace that few people from the prior generation got to enjoy. Work-life balance is very important to most of them. It probably also meant a lot to baby boomers, although they were more likely to simply endure an uncomfortable work setting than to demand a change.
On the other hand, they have no problem demanding from employers changes that would make the work environment, the work-life balance and the remuneration more palatable.
Many employers are more than willing to accommodate these demands than they were during the era of the baby boomers era and the advent of social media; which the millennial generation has no qualms with using to broadcast their issues.
Millennials sure aren’t ready to just suck it up and get on with it. Smart employers recognize that social media can be a double-edged sword that can be used through this type of generation to cast their businesses in the right perspective.
Happy millennials that are satisfied in their respective workplaces are often eager to get on social media and share their good fortune with whoever cares to listen. This ends up serving as good publicity for employers.
Luckily, they arrived at a time in which many baby boomers consider to be a ‘ready-made world’. It comes complete with the internet, wifi, social media platforms and color television, baby boomers consider them a very privileged generation when compared to the latter generation Z.
Generation Z, which are those born from the mid-2000s through today grow up with Bluetooth speakers, learning their numbers swiping on touch sensitive screens as opposed to using an abacus and flat screen smart televisions.
With some experiencing the internet’s arrival during their childhood, a millennials vs Gen Z dynamic is created with the former seeing the latter as having being handed all to make life super easy on a proverbial platter of gold.
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