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Published 28 February 2013 12:11
Unburdened by mortgages, Gen Y can be an optimistic breath of fresh air. Photo: Fairfax Media
In those hectic and soul-destroying months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, when the “GFC” become part of the vernacular in this country, I was approached by a newspaper editor to write a story about Gen Y. The editor’s view was that this downturn would crush Generation Y, the babies of the boomers, who were aware of decades of good times and were used to hot and cold running iPods and living off their parents. “These kids are not going to cope!They have no resilience! They will become defeated and depressed pretty quickly.”
I told the editor I had no idea how they were going to react but I would be a good qualitative researcher and ask them as well as interview some Gen Y experts and see what I could find.
My findings didn’t fit the editor’s angle. I talked to a range of young Australians who were worried about the global situation and its impact on any plans they had to travel or work overseas. They were buoyed by the fact that interest rates were low and with the government grants available, they thought they might be able to buy a small corner of real estate. But they were mostly worried about their parents and their retirement plans, what with the hit to superannuation funds. All in all, they lived up to their reputation as an optimistic generation.Findings from the February round of The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index show that five or so years on, Gen Y remains optimistic. The index recorded a small but significant rise in sentiment among consumers in general, rising by 7.7 per cent to 108.3 in February, taking the index to 7.2 per cent higher compared with this time last year. But the largest increment was recorded by young respondents (those aged 18-24 years), up by 32.3 per cent.
They feel relaxed about not needing to find the right degree or job in the short-term, confident that a satisfying career will emerge in good time.
In our recent study on the minds and moods of 21 year olds, we also found a positive attitude to life. They feel relaxed about not needing to find the right degree or job in the short-term, confident that a satisfying career will emerge in good time. They are enjoying their freedom but making ambitious plans for their future. They appreciate the situation for their peers in other nations in Europe and Americais dire and feel lucky to be living in Australia. Compared with the groups in the 30s and 40s age ranges, burdened as they are with mortgages, talking to young Australians is a breath of fresh air.
Gen Y gets a bad rap time and again by media commentators. But they may in fact be the ones driving us back towards greater optimism.