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The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey: Highlights

In a time of crisis, younger generations hold true to their ideals and demand accountability

The pandemic sapped younger generations’ optimism but not their drive to compel real change in society and business. The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey explains what’s changed—and what hasn’t.

Postpandemic resistance

The lockdown year was rough for everyone, and the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey shows that younger generations were hit as hard as anyone: being cooped up and isolated, living with the constant fear of getting sick or seeing loved ones get sick, and witnessing devastating events around the globe. The wear and tear of the last year dramatically sapped the optimism that millennials and Gen Zs expressed in the 2020 survey.1

But their resilience remains a hallmark—and they’re looking ahead, channelling their energies into holding themselves and others accountable. The lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed millennials’ and Gen Zs’ activities but not their drive or their desire to be heard. In fact, the new survey—tapping the views of 14,655 millennials and 8,273 Gen Zs in January and February 2021—suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme climate events, and a charged sociopolitical atmosphere may have reinforced people’s passions and given them oxygen. These generations are continuing to compel real change in society and business.

For the full interactive report, please see The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey: A call for accountability and action.

Urging accountability

The pandemic year generated tremendous stress for younger generations, who cite increased worries about employment and health in the survey. But it’s striking that at a moment when the world turned inward, with millions forced to stay indoors, millennials and Gen Zs maintained an outward-looking perspective: They’re the people most likely to call out racism and sexism, and to shun companies and employers whose actions conflict with their personal values.

Of course, that’s a generality—no group of people is homogeneous. But millennials and Gen Zs, on the whole, seem more persistent, more vocal, and more apt than others to question and even upset the status quo. These generations believe in the power of individuals to create change. Even though they want institutions to do more and aren’t hesitant to call for government intervention to fix what they can’t, they embrace personal responsibility. It’s evident in their approach to everything from the pandemic to social justice—an approach that has real ramifications for employers, retailers, and every other organisation and institution.

Causes for concern

This year’s global survey followed up on topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its effect on respondents’ behaviours, stress levels, and opinions. As always, it asked about people’s satisfaction with business’s role in society. And it dug into the issues that matter to millennials and Gen Zs, especially the environment, social equality, and discrimination. Among the findings:

  • Stress has returned to prepandemic levels, with more than 41% of millennials and 46% of Gen Zs saying they feel stressed all or most of the time. The pandemic has created much uncertainty and stress around millennials’ and Gen Zs’ financial futures. About two-thirds of each group agreed that they often worry or become stressed by their personal financial situations.
  • The stigma around mental health challenges, particularly in the workplace, remains. About a third of all respondents (millennials 31%, Gen Zs 35%) said they’ve taken time off work due to stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic. And approximately 40% of millennials and Gen Zs feel their employers have done a poor job of supporting their mental well-being during this period.
  • Health and employment status have climbed the list of top concerns, but millennials and Gen Zs remain deeply concerned about climate change and the environment. More than four in 10 millennials and Gen Zs agree that we have already hit the point of no return when it comes to the environment and that it’s too late to repair the damage. However, a majority are optimistic that people’s commitment to take personal action to address environmental and climate issues will be greater postpandemic.
  • They have serious concerns and misgivings about the scale of wealth and income inequality. Two-thirds of millennials and Gen Zs see wealth and income as unequally distributed in society. A majority surveyed believe that legislation and direct government intervention would significantly close the gap.
  • Six in 10 Gen Zs and 56% of millennials see systemic racism as very or fairly widespread in general society. At least one in five said they feel personally discriminated against “all of the time” or frequently because of an aspect of their backgrounds. More than half see older generations as standing in the way of progress.
  • Continuing a steady decline over the last few years, slightly less than half of millennials and Gen Zs think that business is having a positive impact on society. Yet views on business’s ambitions are beginning to stabilise. A slightly lower percentage of respondents this year said they believe businesses are focused solely on their own agendas or that they have no motivations beyond profitability. This may indicate that they view business leaders’ discourse around stakeholder capitalism as sincere, but they still want to see concrete impact to match corporate promises.

A better planet, a fairer system, a kinder humanity

Although COVID-19 vaccines were beginning to emerge when this year’s survey was administered, promising an end to restrictions and the resumption of normality, high numbers of millennials and Gen Zs still fear that both personal and societal situations will get worse before they get better.

Many among these groups, though, are tired of waiting. They want a better planet, a fairer system, a kinder humanity—and they’re ready to help make that happen, with small steps today giving way to giant steps as more millennials and Gen Zs assume positions of influence throughout society.

After nearly a year of life lived during a pandemic—a period punctuated by civil strife, social division, and severe climate events—millennials and Gen Zs surveyed in January 2021 were, understandably, both frustrated and impatient. Yet an undercurrent of optimism persisted, a characteristic that these groups continue to share despite a decade of setbacks and challenges. This year’s report delves deeply into how 2020 affected these generations’ day-to-day lives, their mental health, and their collective worldview.

For the full interactive report, please see The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey: A call for accountability and action.

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Cover image by: Nicole Xu

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