Millennials – the demographic dividend is at risk

By , 15 December 2015 at 11:00
Millennials – the demographic dividend is at risk

Millennials – the demographic dividend is at risk

By , 15 December 2015 at 11:00

By Charlie Oliver 


We are currently in the midst of the worst migrant crisis since the Second World War.

1 in every 122 people in the world is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. Further, it is thought that this year alone, around 550,000 migrants have reached the EU – that’s more than the entire population of Edinburgh – the capital of Scotland and my hometown.

This is a millennial migrant crisis.

Research by the UNHCR shows that the overwhelming majority of these migrants are Millennials. For example, a study of Syrian migrants entering Greece in June this year, found that 71% of them were Millennials.

While the attention of the western media has been overwhelmingly on the situation in Europe, millions of others are at risk around the world. For example, in China there is what Foreign Affairs has called a “domestic immigrant crisis,” where 260m migrants workers, 50% of whom are Millennials, live as 2nd class citizens under the “hukou” programme – this classifies them as rural (non-permanent urban) residents and denies them access to social security, healthcare and primary education for their children.

169m young people live in working poverty.

It is young people that often tend to be the victims of modern-day slavery too. It is thought that there are 21m forced labour victims in the world, many of whom are young people and even children.

While the circumstances that have led to the migrant crisis, the high levels of internal displacement or modern-day slavery that we’re seeing in a number of countries have not been caused by Millennials, they are the ones that are suffering from it.

We often celebrate the coming of the millennial generation. They are the best educated, most diverse and collaborative workforce ever. We expect the young populations of many countries, especially developing ones, to be the driving forces behind economic growth in the world as both consumers and employees.

The rise of millennial billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel serve to support that expectation. Further, they have created businesses with the scale to profoundly influence how we live our lives for the better; as well as the resource to help resolve some of the world’s most pressing global issues like poverty and inequality, climate change and bridging the digital divide.

However, 72% of Millennials agree that the gap between rich and poor is expanding.

Youth unemployment remains a global challenge, with 73.3m unemployed around the world. Further, millions of those in work find themselves in working poverty. More than a third (37.8%) of working youth in the developing world live on $2 a day or less. This means that 169m young people live in working poverty, increasing to 286m at up to $4 a day.

My fear is that because of this instability and inequality in the world, we will see a generation of people, what we call Millennials, coming of age as the world’s first truly global citizens, but that are divided by their personal circumstances into, “haves” and “have nots.” In other words, a collaborative, globally-connected generation that is actually driven further apart, according to the environment they’ve been born into, than past generations.

1 in every 122 people in the world is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.

In short, the demographic dividend that we are all looking forward to is at risk.

There is not one fix-all solution that will resolve these challenges. Some of them are caused by situations within specific countries, others because of globalisation and the mechanisation of work that requires low or unskilled labour.

Innovation in technology can play a big and positive role in finding solutions. It has the capacity to scale quickly owing to the digital age in which we find ourselves, which is why I think it’s great that this new Trailblazers website has been created to showcase some brilliant examples of tech for social good.

Nevertheless, it is my strong belief that any impactful resolution to support Millennials, will be established through a combination of government, business and the third sector working together.

Those of us in the Millennial generation that have found ourselves in the fortunate position to influence this must make the effort to ensure that we don’t leave our peers behind.

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