Bernardo M. Villegas
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We Can All Be Millennials (Part 1)

          Thanks to one of my favorite columnists in the Financial Times, I have modified my views concerning  millennials about whom I have been writing a lot in my own columns and articles in the mass media (both printed and digital).  Named after our famous Asia’s Queen of Song, Pilita Corrales, columnist Pilita Clark titled her column (March 18, 2018) “Millennials: you will not be quite so special in the ‘futr”.  Referring to a business conference she attended in London and quoting one of the organizers, she announced that the forum called Millennial 20/20, started in 2015, was dead.   It would be rebranded “Futr”, short for future trends and its scope would grow.  From now on, I will follow Ms. Clark’s suggestion and write or talk about Future Trends whenever I want to describe the behaviors of Generation Y (the original Millennials) and their successors (Generation Z, or those born after the year 2000).

         I don’t have to be convinced, as Ms. Clark wrote, that we should talk more about a “millennial mindset” rather than a millennial generation.    In my University, I am surrounded with numerous members of the faculty and research staff who are in their late forties and fifties (even a few in their sixties or seventies) who are a lot more savvy about smart phones, computers, apps, social networking and all that stuff of the digital era than those who are in their twenties and early thirties (the millennials, strictly so called).  To quote Ms. Clark: “People of all ages are now so used to shopping with a click or talking to a chatbot that retailers need to think about the needs and desires of all their customers, not just those born between 1981 and 1996—the latest definition experts have devised for a millennial.”   The first exhibit presented by Ms. Clark was her 82-year-old mother who has tried all the possible products of Apple in the past 10 years.  There are studies which show that for some time now parents have been copying the online shopping behavior of their millennial offspring. 

         The millennials are not creatures from mars or venus.  Some of us have exaggerated how they differ from past generations.   We have referred to them as “entitled, self-obsessed, job-hoppers, desperate for a life outside work, a ‘purpose’ and constant feedback, except if it’s remotely critical.”  Surprise, surprise.  These very same characteristics are also found among baby-boomers and the Generation X people (born between 1965 to 1982.).  According to Bruce Plau, KPMG’s former vice-chair of human resource, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting workers  of all ages are far more alike than dissimilar when it comes to their attitudes to work and their values.  Having taught at least three different generations, I can attest to the fact that those in their forties, fifties and sixties today are as keen as the millennials on a decent work-life balance, doing work they are passionate about and helping to save the planet or eradicating poverty and injustice.   As Ms. Clark pointed out: “Millennials might move jobs more than older people, but younger workers have been doing that for decades.  In fact, some data suggest that younger people are now less itinerant than previous generations.”

         In previous columns I have written under the heading “Getting to Understand the Millennials”, I did postulate that a good number of millennials tend to have shorter attention spans, marry at later ages, are more easily depressed, more tolerant of sexual misbehavior, less inclined to practice their faith in their daily lives and less respectful of their elders.  These behavior patterns are not attributable to their young age.  They are results of changes in the environments in which they have grown up which are being transformed drastically because of rapid urbanization, labor immigration, the introduction of such new industries as business process outsourcing and knowledge process outsourcing, and the longer schooling period.  Take the dramatic rise over the last twenty years of the number of Filipino parents who are forced to look for jobs overseas because of economic necessities.  The OFW phenomenon has led to many children growing with one or both parents working abroad.  This is an example of a trend having an impact on the actuations of the youth.  Rapid urbanization and the consequent problem of hours lost in traffic make family life increasingly difficult.  Parents spend increasingly less time with their children, making it more difficult to impose parental authority and respect for the elders.  The increased need for post-university studies among the urban elite makes marrying at a later age a practical and financial necessity.  Shortage and high prices of urban housing motivate young couples to have fewer children.  It is not that the millennials are more or less virtuous than the previous generations.  They are facing different challenges from their environment.  We have to recognize and understand very well what these challenges, the opportunities and threats that they are facing in the next twenty years if we are to help them capitalize on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses as they strive to attain, like the rest of us, their integral human development.  (To be continued).