Generational grumbles are as old as time itself.
There’s probably a cave painting about how the younger generation ruined the hunter-gatherering economy with their “fancy agriculture.” Since then, every successive generation has found a new medium to express their disappointment with “them young’uns.”
One recent example comes from the comment section on TikTok, which recently erupted when a young lady explained why Gen Z and Millennials don’t exactly share the same values regarding work.
“Older generations are so confused about why we don’t want to work hard anymore or prioritize our careers,” Demi Kotsoris says in the clip. “We know how short life is now.”
Kotsoris goes on to explain that the pandemic and greater access to information have reshaped the perspective of younger generations and made them question whether work should be the center of their lives.
Of course, the response was heated. “This mindset is so [‘you only live once’] that you will regret those decisions later,” reads one comment on Kotsoris’ video.
“People are just SELFISH & LAZY NOW,” says another.
But the replies may have missed the point of the video. Here’s why Kotsoris’ message resonates with so many younger workers and why her experience highlights some deeper truths about modern work.
Work isn’t as rewarding anymore
For baby boomers, there were clear rewards for working hard. Putting in an average amount of effort allowed a typical worker to buy a nice home, raise children comfortably and travel the world. In the 1980s, the average home price was just four or five times the median income. Now, it’s closer to 7.5 times.
Having a college degree was also far more rare in the 1980s. Now, nearly everyone in the job market has a degree so its value has been eroded. Meanwhile, the dollar has been eroded too. Wages haven’t kept up with inflation for decades, so an hour of work today isn’t worth as much as an hour of work in the ’80s.
Upward mobility has declined too. A person born in a middle-class family in the 1940s was 93% likely to outearn their parents by the age of 30. For those born in the 1990s, that rate is just 45%.
Some noomers could beat the odds and create generational wealth by investing in stocks. However, even that’s not as easy as it used to be. The S&P 500 was trading at around 10 times its earnings during the 1980s. It’s now trading in the low-20s.
Read more: This janitor in Vermont built an $8M fortune without anyone around him knowing. Here are the 2 simple techniques that made Ronald Read rich — and can do the same for you
The relationship with corporations has changed
The employee-employer relationship has also changed since the ’80s. Defined-benefit pension plans are nearly extinct. A major corporation that went public before the 1970s was 92% likely to survive the next five years. By the early 2000s, the rate had dropped to 63%.
Unions have also declined, which means workers now have far less bargaining power than their parents.
All these factors have made younger workers question the value of company loyalty and lifelong careers.
The pandemic altered perspective
The global pandemic may also have shifted work culture for everyone, not just younger employees.
The crisis triggered a retirement boom. And at the same time, younger workers saw how short life can be, and how easily their lifestyle can be disrupted by a global crisis like a pandemic or climate change. A study by Deloitte found that Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to prioritize work-life balance, flexible work arrangements and purposeful work.
The pandemic highlighted that remote work is a viable option for many companies. In fact, a survey by Buffer found that 98% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.
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