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Jeffrey Bernstein

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A Generation of "Y"-ners? I Don't Think So

Posted: 11/26/2012 12:00 am

HuffPost Canada has been #AskingY -- presenting a series to dig deeply into the malaise which has come to characterize the ostensible hijacking of my generation's shot at upward mobility. Apparently, we've taken note.

Yes, the numbers appear frightening. But any unscientific survey of our friends might capture the same experiences: We are moving home in droves. Some of us -- the lucky ones, it might be said -- are working multiple jobs just to scrape by or to "pay our dues" in unpaid internships so we may earn the right of (entry-level) passage into an industry that might actually hold some meaning for us.

Were we duped, en masse, to believe we could do anything?

I don't buy the nay-saying. Of course, this sentiment is cold comfort for my friends and those who currently face unemployment and the seeming refusal by old-school employers to make new-school hires. These candidates are abundantly qualified: Most have advanced degrees, relevant work and volunteer experience, a handle on new technologies, and diverse interests that make carrying on a stimulating conversation not just possible, but -- shock! -- enjoyable, too.

Contrast these millennial-pioneers with their neophyte siblings quickly filling the ranks in universities, community colleges, and vocational trades, and their prospects might seem all the better.

But lamenting by and for us is no solution. When the time comes, dear Boomers, please exit gracefully. To our Gen-X forebears: Please do share the stage.

After some questionable diversions, Grant McCracken of MIT advised recently for Boomers to "take advantage of what [Millennials] know. Promote them in the organization. Install them in the C-Suite. It's simple really. It's time to let Millennials roll up their sleeves, show off their tats, and get to work." Hear-hear. As Rob Carrick, The Globe and Mail's personal finance columnist, points out, it's not like Boomers don't need us. Even if we wanted to buy their super-sized homes (I'm in -- only so long as there's an indoor basketball court), who could afford to do so? Our discontent is decidedly more modest.

And if we encounter fervent opposition -- armed with cascading numbers, the power of our convictions, an activist spirit, and tech-savvy -- there really is no time like the present to take matters into our own hands, to change our communities, and to shape the futures we seek for ourselves.

"Yes, Jeff, that's well and good -- but how?"

Story Continues Under Gallery..

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  • Think you know your generation?

    The Huffington Post Canada and Abacus Data surveyed 1,004 Canadian millennials from across the country on a variety of issues. Here's what we found:

  • Biggest challenges?

    We asked 1,004 Canadian millennials to rank the biggest challenges facing their generation.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    2% rank the decriminalization of marijuana as No. 1 or 2.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    5% of millennials rank internet regulation and online privacy as one of their top two issues.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    7% rank bullying as the first or second biggest challenge.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    8% of millennials rank retirement security No. 1 or 2.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    11% of millennials say access to quality health care is one of the generation's top two challenges

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    20% of millennials rank pollution and environmental protection as No. 1 or 2 of the biggest challenges faced by this generation.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    20% say affordable housing is in the top two.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    24% of millennials peg the cost of education as their first or second choice for the generation's biggest challenge.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    27% say the cost of food, gas and consumer goods are in the top two.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    32% of millennials chose "student debt and personal debt" as the first or second biggest challenge.

  • What defines a good citizen?

    We asked 1,004 millennials between the ages of 18-30 what it takes to be a good Canadian citizen.

  • What defines a good citizen?

    15% of millennials say it takes being active in political parties...

  • What defines a good citizen?

    28% of millennials say donating money to charity makes a good citizen..

  • What defines a good citizen?

    35% of millennials say that being active in social organizations is important to citizenship..

  • What defines a good citizen?

    63% of millennials say being informed about current events is important..

  • What defines a good citizen?

    64% of millennials say being able to fluently speak one official language is important..

  • What defines a good citizen?

    74% of millennials say a good citizen is someone who always votes in elections.

  • What defines a good citizen?

    81% of millennials say good citizens honestly pay their taxes.

  • What's the biggest challenge facing your generation?

    43% of millennials rank the availability of quality jobs as their first or second choice.

  • Health Challenges

    We asked 1,004 Canadian millennials what were their generation's biggest health challenges

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    3% say pollution

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    4% say sexually transmitted infections

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    7% say disease

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    11% say poor nutrition

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    16% say obesity

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    17% say addiction

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    19% say mental health

  • Biggest health challenge facing your generation?

    26% say lack of physical activity

  • Relationship status

    Some views from 1,004 Canadian millennials on marriage and family..

  • Relationship status

    18% of millennials are in a common law relationship

  • Relationship status

    66% of millennials are single

  • Relationship status

    15% of millennials are married

  • Do you ever want to get married?

    63% of unmarried millennials say <strong>yes</strong> 13% say <strong>no</strong> 24% say they are <strong>unsure</strong>

  • Do you ever want to get married?

    65% of <strong>unmarried women</strong> say <strong>yes</strong> 13% say <strong>no</strong> 22% say they are <strong>unsure</strong>

  • Do you ever want to get married?

    61% of <strong>unmarried men</strong> say <strong>yes</strong> 13% say <strong>no</strong> 26% say they are <strong>unsure</strong>

  • Is marriage an outdated institution?

    33% agree 67% disagree

  • Do you have children?

    12% of millennials surveyed have children 88% do not

  • Do you want to have children at some point?

    64% of millennials say yes 12% say no 24% are unsure

  • More On Millennials

    Huffington Post Canada's series on millennials, Asking Y. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/generation-y" target=blank>Visit it here</a>.

True, we can't all incorporate and self-label as "management consultants." But nor can we all be lawyers, doctors, and bankers -- notwithstanding how happy that might make our mothers.

Not everyone has the stomach for risk, the time to experiment, and the resources to gamble on entrepreneurship. Then again, there are now more opportunities than ever before for one's great idea to be validated through crowdfunding and impact investing schemes, with whip-smart financiers looking to both do well and do good. Indeed, stories abound of enterprising and curious millennials identifying a market lacking some niche service or product and becoming their own boss to plug that hole.

And, hey -- even our provincial and federal governments have begun to talk the talk when it comes to legislating market conditions to support more entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships.

To the cynic, this may look like a desperate play by bloated, cash-strapped bureaucracies -- or an effort to privatize problem solving. But it's only a matter of time before they figure out how to more efficiently allocate capital resources -- and if that takes the form of the entrepreneur's incentive-laden ecosystem, that's a great thing. It's the stuff for which Generation Y is made.

But, more fundamentally, why shouldn't our current woes and challenges serve a useful opportunity to re-examine the paradigms we've unquestionably come to accept? Perhaps the single-family household model will prove to be dated. Maybe the institution of marriage will be replaced by something entirely more appropriate for our present conditions. (Or, maybe it won't be). Admittedly a more difficult notion to ponder for families beset by adult-sibling rivalries, but why might not a variation on the "joint family" -- two brothers, their partners, children, dogs, an ever-lingering mother-in-law or three -- popularized by necessity in India, be a feasible arrangement from a financial, if not a sanity, standpoint?

Surely this example undercuts our middle-class "dream" of single-family home ownership, but couldn't it -- or hopefully far-improved ideas -- lead to healthier, warmer, and more productive relationships? Could new ways of conceiving millennial-suited living standards not actually promote more innovation?

Yes, our generation will be forced to confront enormous challenges -- how to address climate change, care for aging and vulnerable populations, maintain and design better public infrastructure, and support a precarious economy, to name but a few. Meanwhile, despite an arsenal of advanced tools in our most modern of times, we still face lingering problems of poverty and homelessness, unequal access to good opportunities, and a yearning for fulfillment not being met.

Carrick, of the Globe, claims that most of Canada's millennials "don't actually want to rebel -- [we] want to conform." HuffPost and Abacus Data's polling seem to echo that sentiment. But a little rebelling is not just good -- it may be our only salvation. Whether we really need start-ups to prepare us for working in start-ups is a matter of debate -- or ridicule, depending on your vantage.

But, if you'll indulge me: Do brainstorm. Collaborate. And create. It's high time we shook off the shackles of dependence and gave swashbuckling a try.

-- Abacus Data has focused research on the Canadian Millennial. Read more here.

What do you think about this story? Join the conversation below or tweet us @HuffPostCanada with the #AskingY tag. We may feature your comments in an upcoming post. You can also check out our Tumblr, and our dedicated page for more from the Asking Y series.
 

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