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Cost of Living Top Concern for  Younger Workers

Cost of Living Top Concern for Younger Workers

May 20, 2024
Deloitte survey says 56% of Gen Z and 55% of millennials live paycheck-to-paycheck.

This doesn’t seem like news, but almost 23,000 respondents across 44 countries, who participated in Deloitte’s 2024 Gen Z and Millennial Survey said that the cost of living is their top concern.

Almost six in 10 Gen Zs (56%) and millennials (55%) live paycheck-to-paycheck—up five points for Gen Zs and three points for millennials since last year. And around three in 10 say they do not feel financially secure.

However, these workers are optimistic that things could improve.  Just under a third of Gen Zs and millennials believe the economic situation in their countries will improve over the next year—the highest percentage since the 2020 Millennial Survey, fielded just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And, nearly half of Gen Zs (48%) and four in 10 millennials (40%) expect their personal financial situations to improve over the next year.

“This year’s survey spotlights two generations who are grappling with financial insecurity, high stress levels, and mounting climate anxiety. They are also considering how rapidly evolving technology, like GenAI, will impact their jobs and their longer-term career decisions,” says Elizabeth Faber, Deloitte Global Chief People & Purpose Officer, in a statement. “But they see reasons for optimism in the year ahead and they continue to push for the changes they want to see, in the workplace and society more broadly.”

Purpose is key to job satisfaction.

Purpose is key to workplace satisfaction and well-being, according to nearly nine in 10 Gen Zs (86%) and millennials (89%). And increasingly, these generations are willing to turn down assignments and employers based on their personal ethics or beliefs—half of Gen Zs (50%) and just over four in 10 millennials (43%) have rejected assignments.

Nearly as many (44% of Gen Zs and 40% of millennials) said they have rejected employers. Reasons for rejecting an employer or an assignment include factors such as having a negative environmental impact, or contributing to inequality through non-inclusive practices, and more personal factors such as a lack of support for employees’ mental well-being and work/life balance.

Businesses have an opportunity and the necessary influence to drive climate action.

Protecting the environment is the societal challenge where Gen Zs and millennials feel businesses have the most opportunity and necessary influence to drive change. And, as roughly six in 10 Gen Zs (62%) and millennials (59%) report feeling anxious or worried about climate change in the past month, Gen Zs and millennials are using their career decisions and consumer behavior to push for action.

Around half of Gen Zs (54%) and millennials (48%) say they and their colleagues are putting pressure on their employers to take action on climate change, a trend that has increased steadily in recent years. And two in 10 Gen Zs (20%) and millennials (19%) have already changed jobs or industry due to environmental concerns, with another quarter planning to in the future.

As consumers, about two-thirds of Gen Zs (64%) and millennials (63%) are willing to pay more to purchase environmentally sustainable products or services. And many are taking personal actions, or plan to in the future, such as avoiding fast fashion, reducing air travel, eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, or purchasing electric vehicles.

Gen Zs and millennials are uncertain about GenAI, but positive perceptions largely increase with frequent use.

Gen Zs and millennials believe GenAI will have a significant impact on their career paths and the way in which they work. Nearly six in 10 Gen Zs (59%) and just over half of millennials (52%) believe the prevalence of GenAI will make them look for job opportunities that are less vulnerable to automation, such as skilled trades or manual labor.

Uncertainty is the top emotion Gen Zs and millennials report feeling when they think about GenAI. The survey also finds that women in particular express greater uncertainty about GenAI than men do and are less likely to feel comfortable working alongside it. A lack of familiarity may accentuate feelings of uncertainty. Gen Zs and millennials who use GenAI at work all or most of the time are more likely to feel trust and excitement than uncertainty.

They are also more likely to believe GenAI will free up their time, improve the way they work, and improve their work/life balance. But, conversely, frequent users of GenAI are also even more likely to have certain concerns, such as believing that GenAI-driven automation will eliminate jobs and make it harder for young people to enter the workforce.

In response to these types of concerns, both generations are focused on reskilling and training. However, only about half of Gen Zs (51%) and millennials (45%) say their employer is sufficiently training them on the capabilities, benefits, and value of GenAI.

Work/life balance is a top priority.

Work/life balance remains the top priority for both Gen Zs and millennials when choosing an employer. The ability to maintain a positive work/life balance is also the top thing they admire in their peers, well above other traditional markers of success like job titles and material possessions. Yet many are not achieving the balance they seek.

Around a third of respondents who regularly feel anxious or stressed say their job and work/life balance contribute a lot to their stress levels, fueled significantly by long working hours (51% of both generations), and a lack of control over how or where they work (44%).

The last year has seen a continued shift towards more on-site work, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying their employers have recently implemented a return-to-office mandate, either bringing people back fully on-site or moving to a hybrid model. These mandates have yielded mixed results, with some reporting benefits like improved engagement, connection and collaboration, while others are experiencing increased stress and decreased productivity.

Despite a dip this year, stress and workplace mental health stigma remain.

Stress levels and mental health continue to be a concern, although there are some signs of improvement this year. Only about half of respondents rate their mental health as good or extremely good. And up to four in 10 Gen Zs (40%) and millennials (35%) say they feel stressed all or most of the time (down from 46% and 39% in 2023).

While work is a big driver of this uneasiness, respondents emphasize their finances and the health and welfare of their family as the top stress drivers.

Employers are making some progress when it comes to better workplace mental health, but there is still much room for improvement when it comes to speaking openly about mental health.

 Nearly three in 10 Gen Zs and millennials worry their manager would discriminate against them if they raised stress or other mental health concerns, and roughly three in 10 don’t believe senior leaders are prioritizing mental health in the workplace.

“Gen Zs and millennials expect a lot from their employers, and from business more broadly," says Faber. "But what they are asking for is what most employees in the workforce, regardless of age, likely want: meaningful work within purpose-driven organizations, the flexibility to balance work and personal priorities, supportive workplaces which foster better mental health, and opportunities to learn and grow in their careers.

“Employers who work to get these things right will have a more satisfied, productive, engaged, and agile workforce who are better prepared to adapt to a rapidly transforming world.”

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