A rise in stress levels among members of Generation Z and millennials is rendering them less able to make solid and timely decisions about their careers, according to a new survey of millennial and Gen Z mindsets.
The news is disheartening for some in a labor market increasingly ripe with automation, e-commerce and the gig economy. Job growth is expected to slow for part-time and full-time positions, according to the government, meaning more will be needed to fill some of the gaps left by retiring boomers. And, now, millennials and Gen Z, who are less likely to have jobs, are being left to weed through the sand as barriers to entry for the workforce and business expansion come into sharper focus.
Eighty-seven percent of millennials and 92 percent of Gen Z say their sense of purpose has decreased over the past five years, according to a Gallup poll released today. What’s more, 61 percent of Gen Zs said their sense of purpose has decreased since they were younger.
“Despite being able to materially raise their pay in the workplace, many millennials are saying that they have not felt that they’ve grown personally or professionally during their tenure,” said Jim Clifton, chairman and chief executive of Gallup, in a statement. “And the fact that less than half of Americans say that they have a fully engaged job for the first time since we began surveying employers over 20 years ago suggests that the well-being of employees is falling behind the business benefits of job engagement.”
The decline in the idea of a career is not limited to individuals with less employment to fall back on. Sixty-four percent of baby boomers also said that the satisfaction of their jobs has decreased over the past five years, according to the poll.
However, there are bright spots to be found in the poll’s results.
For one, there is a measure of relative satisfaction, rather than the actual number of hours employees are working. More Americans said they are engaged in their jobs than a year ago. The disparity is worrisome, the poll said, but not as alarming as older workers’ reduction in satisfaction.
Still, it’s clear that millennials are, like their parents, increasingly being forced to balance the demands of home, school and work.
There are obvious, cultural reasons for millennials to be more stressed, the poll said. There’s the idea that careers for millennials tend to follow a cycle of rejection and promotion from entry-level roles. Companies are likely to favor hires with experience over fresh-faced millennials who may lack experience or confidence.
And, the role of parents and the shift to part-time work has also made the connection between fulfillment and work more impermanent. Given that part-time workers now make up 34 percent of the workforce, compared with about 20 percent in 1970, American millennials may feel that success will always be based on external factors and that a better life outside of the workforce will always beckon.
Still, the problems the millennials are facing extend far beyond the culture. Many argue that it has become harder for young workers to turn their initial jobs into long-term employment. The 12.5 million jobs lost in the last recession are still dragging down American growth. More slowly rising wages have made it more difficult for many young Americans to sock away savings for retirement.
Of course, these issues are not limited to Generation Z. Millennials who were born between 1990 and 1999 also reported increases in stress in the poll, and it may be that these two generations have begun to recognize that the job market in the early 21st century may not be the one we know.