Chinese millennial positivity off the charts compared to global peers

06 June 2018 5 min. read
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As the future and world at large begins to lose its shine across the globe for the once touted perennial optimists of the millennial generation, Chinese youngsters have bucked the trend of creeping negativity among their international peers to record a sharp rise in confidence.

The latest global Deloitte Millennial Survey, which measures economic outlook, business views and employment trends and perspectives across established and emerging economies among the generation born after 1982, has found widespread deteriorating sentiment toward the business establishment, long-term future employment prospects, and the advent of emerging technologies.

Chinese millennials, however, demonstrated a clear divergence of opinion in the results compared to global averages, with a sharp spike in short-term economic confidence, a brighter belief in their future prosperity and happiness, and growing trust in the principles of the business community – in bold contrast to the plummeting regard expressed elsewhere.

Further, Chinese millennials were less financially cynical compared to their peers and more committed to a healthy and diverse working environment when seeking assessing a potential employer. And they were far more confident and possibly realistic when it came to the impact of Industry 4.0 on the workplace, that is, the convergence of emerging technologies such as robotics and automation, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence.

Economic outlook of Chinese millennials

Overall, the most attention-catching result of the survey was in terms of opinions on the twelve-month economic outlook, with millennial expectations of improvement rocketing from 67 percent last year to an 81 percent nod for the coming year – twenty points up on 2016. While the Chinese youth have been persistently more bullish about the local economy than their international counterparts, the difference now is vast. In fact, global sentiment on average remained steady at 45 percent – despite increasingly negative perceptions of the business world.

Here, while the majority of the world’s younger generation strongly reacted to, according to Deloitte, a troubled year of geopolitical and social concerns by losing faith in the motivations and ethics of established enterprise, Chinese respondents grew more favourable or were steady in their views on last year’s results across every category surveyed – albeit with large numbers wanting their own employers to focus more on protecting the environment, improving society, and generating more jobs compared to current priorities.

Views on business standards of Chinese millennials

As a breakdown, on global averages, the number of millennials surveyed who believed that businesses behaved in an ethical manner dropped from 65 percent to 47 percent for an 18 point downturn in a single year, while the previous majority who agreed that business leaders were committed to helping improve society fell by 16 points from 62 to 46 percent. 

In contrast, the Chinese millennials surveyed returned rises of three and four points to 83 and 85 percent in the corresponding categories. And while there was the slight rise in the Chinese who felt organisations had no ambition other than to make money (up one point to 31%), this figure represents less than half of 63 percent of millennials in agreement globally (up 13 points).

Important employment factors for Chinese millennials

Along with wide-eyed optimism, the less flattering stereotypical association with the millennial generation has long been in regards to a certain self-interest and lack of workplace loyalty. Despite the supposed reaction to geopolitical events (or perhaps because of it) and the loss of faith in the business community, millennials worldwide mostly expressed more personal concerns when considering an employer, again outshone by their more community and workplace-minded Chinese opposites.

The greatest divergences in employer considerations were for financial rewards/benefits (56 percent of Chinese respondents against 63 percent globally), and workplace flexibility such as hours and locations (29% compared to 50%). On the flipside, the Chinese were far more concerned for well-being programmes and incentives (41% v 33%), reputation for ethical behaviour (31% v 22%), and, perhaps surprisingly with respect to the benefits expressed elsewhere in the survey, diversity and inclusion, where 33 percent of Chinese respondents considered it the most important aspect compared to just 19 percent globally.

Financial expectations of Chinese millennials compared to parents

Altogether, the results, rather than representing some sort of inherent personal self-interest, possibly speak more toward a dawning cynicism – long the supposed hall-mark of the preceding Generation X – as the hopeful millennial generation reaches maturity and finds itself facing an uncertain employment landscape, practically frozen out of the housing market, and governed by wealthy, socially ‘out-of-touch’ leaders imposing austerity measures and cutting back on civic spending.

Evidence for such a contention can perhaps be found in the longer-term expectations of millennials as to prosperity and personal well-being compared to their parents’ – another area where the Chinese youth are far more positive than the global averages, with 81 percent of Chinese millennials compared to 51 percent internationally expecting to be wealthier than their parents, and 79 percent compared to just 43 percent expecting to be happier.

Here, though, the global number expecting greater happiness rises to 49 percent when accounting for just the younger Generation Z; indicating, maybe, that certain economic realities have yet to set in – or possibly that, compared to the Baby-Boomer parentage of the older millennial contingent, they’re the offspring of the notoriously cynical Generation X and foresee greater happiness by simple default. Gen Z is also less inclined to believe that they’ll be as financially well off, so are perhaps less wide-eyed to begin with.