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Millennials: Better Than Their Reputation

Millennials have a reputation for being not very interested in the world around them. But this is wrong: People aged 20 to 37 could help to create a better future.

In a cover story, Time magazine dubbed them the "Me Me Me" Generation; other magazines and blogs call them "Generation Y Bother" and a book about them is called "The Dumbest Generation."

According to the United Nations, Generation Y, also known as millennials, now makes up nearly 30 percent of the world's population, but it does not have the best reputation. Undeservedly so. A look at the data and facts concerning today's 20- to 37-year-olds points to an optimistic future.

For example, Credit Suisse also views millennials as one of five global supertrends. The core of these trends is formed by demographic, socio-economic and political developments as well as technological and scientific progress.

But now to the main question: What distinguishes millennials?

Sustainability Is Important

According to the WEF's annual Global Shapers survey, climate change and global warming are among millennials' main concerns. They are currently the generation most focused on sustainability. Studies by Nielsen and Deloitte show that they are willing to spend more on products and services if these are produced sustainably. Because of their numbers (almost 2 billion people), millennials will have a major impact on the success of companies based on the products they choose to purchase. Many studies also show that this generation is very interested in impact investing, i.e. investments that seek social and environmental benefits in addition to financial returns.

Their alleged self-centeredness also has a positive side: Many millennials want to do things for themselves. In the Credit Suisse Youth Barometer 2016, 16- to 25-year-olds were asked to name their preferred employer, and many said that they wanted to be self-employed. In other surveys, they favored careers as social entrepreneurs and working for foundations or for social investment funds.

Unlike their parents, the members of Generation Y have no fear of technology – they grew up after the digital revolution. Most have never experienced life without the internet or smartphones. Online consumption is normal. Few in the Youth Barometer 2016 say that they want to be offline. The survey also reveals that although "digital" has no borders and it is used interchangeably with "global," there are enormous differences among millennials in different countries when it comes to the use of digital devices and apps. Furthermore, most young people are well aware of who is responsible for their online protection: the individual him- or herself, is the top answer in the Youth Barometer.

Together Separately

Millennials are price-conscious because many of them completed their education during the financial crisis and there are fewer resources available to them than to previous generations. In the Youth Barometer, 33 percent say that financial obligations are a large or very large burden in their lives. Accordingly, a large number of them continue living at home with their parents for a long time. However, they would like to have money to fulfill their wishes and make lifestyle decisions. Experiences are fundamentally important to them.

The housing needs of millennials differ from those of previous generations. Single-person households, for example, are a symbol of the needs and values of millennials and are becoming increasingly widespread. Living in a single-person household is, in many cases, no longer simply a phase between the (late) stage when children move out of their parents' house and when they start their own family, but rather a conscious decision in an increasingly individualistic society.

The Future Looks Good

Even among those who are in a relationship, many live separately in single-person apartments, as Credit Suisse's study "Swiss Real Estate Market 2017" shows. But not everything is new and different for this generation: Many millennials dream of owning their own home in the long term.

The positive conclusion is that this generation is facing the future with confidence. 59 percent of young Swiss people in last year's Credit Suisse Youth Barometer believe the future looks good!