Youth discontent: Who’s next?

Last month I wrote about the impact of recession on youth, and in particular, the impact of a severe recession on youth participation in the labour market. Will they get crowded out in the short-term as older workers choose to stay in the workforce longer?

But such immediate questions aside, growing youth unemployment, or underemployment, may have far deeper societal repercussions.

The recent events in Greece where mobs of angry youths rioted in the streets is perhaps a telling example. Triggered by the shooting of a 15-year-old boy, an estimated 8,000 Greek youths joined what soon became an all-out attack against their role in the Greek state. Read the rest of this entry »


The dishwasher and the Internet

SITRA, the Finnish Innovation agency, is a Helsinki-based partner organization of ours that thinks about how new innovations, investment choices and models of governance can help promote the welfare of Finnish society and Finnish competitiveness.

They recently hosted nGenera Chairman Don Tapscott and Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang (both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with) for a conversation about the Future of the Public Sector. You can view all the videos from this event, and many others, here.

Don argues that the Net Generation and the Web 2.0 are ushering in a series of fundamental changes to the way governments operate; how they provide services and create policy; how they structure the workplace; and how they increasingly look to citizens to play a role in all of those areas.

Dr. Chang on the other hand takes a more cautious approach noting that the most visible and seemingly revolutionary ideas aren’t always the real change agents. He introduces an interesting question of whether Read the rest of this entry »

The Net Gen meets a recession

“The swooning economy has also poured a cold shower on many Generation Yers, who grew up coddled, courted and figuring they’d have an easy career ride.”

There’s no doubt that the short-term job market prospects for anyone looking for a career change have been disrupted by the last six months of economic upheaval. We’ve gone from touting the war for talent to focusing on the impacts of delayed retirement and decimated pension funds on the workplace.

As a recent McKinsey report notes, “Eighty-five percent of the boomers we surveyed said that it was at least somewhat likely that they would continue to work beyond the traditional retirement age. Nearly 40 percent said that it was extremely likely, and of those, two-thirds emphasized financial reasons.”

Read the rest of this entry »

A digital generation?

Much has been said, often in this space, about the Net Generation, and how their digital upbringing has instilled in them a different set of values and norms. That’s all well and good (ok, maybe not… see below), except, for the possibility that – perhaps – the “Net Gen” isn’t quite as “Net” as we often think. Or so go the findings of a just released study by Ipsos Reid. Entitled “Inter@ctive Teens: The Impact of the Internet on Canada’s Next Generation,” the report highlights some rather interesting findings that may in fact dispell the belief that N-Geners are “Internet-savvy, constantly-wired early adopter(s).”

Fun books.

The report notes that:

  • “12 to 17 year olds spend, on average, only 13 hours per week on the Internet (compared to a weekly average of 19 hours for online adults), and that number has not increased since Ipsos last measured online teen behaviour in 2004.”


  • “Slightly more than one-quarter (28%) of online teens consider themselves to be very skilled or expert. Another one-quarter (24%) admit to not being skilled in the use of the Internet, with the remaining teens identifying themselves as fairly skilled”.
  • “While adults are going to a multitude of different websites for a variety of online activities, teens are focused mainly on websites that allow them to socialize, download music, or play games.”

So what does this leave us to believe about this generation? Are they really the digital captains of today’s world?

Over the past couple of months I’ve increasingly questioned this assumption, in large part because nearly every one I talk to who is leading activities in the Web 2.0 space is, alas, not a N-Gener but rather a Gen Xr. I’m not alone in thinking this either. Author Jeff Gordinier agrees, having penned “X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking.” In it he points out that today’s networked era has in large part been shaped and developed by Gen Xrs, perhaps allowing them to “trump boomer narcissism and millenial entitlement.”

We’re thus left to wonder how accurate the generational segments we’ve created really are. Gen Xrs were lazy but are now leaders. N-Geners were digital natives and bathed in bits but are now kind of like Gen Xrs were, but with the Internet… kind of makes you wonder about all the hype we throw on today’s youth. Sure they’re voting and using viral campaigns to make change but is that really that different than the late 60’s/early 70’s anti-war movement? It too was led by students who wanted change but they didn’t have the Net, nor mobile phones, nor Facebook.

And so I’m left to conclude that this type of generational segmentation is in fact completely incorrect and what we should be doing is looking at how we operate at different life stages. And while it’s likely true that thanks to technology today’s youth are wired differently then their predecessors, I’m of the opinion that what matters more is the confluence of specific life stages with specific events that galvanize action.