I always remain convinced, with an optimism bordering on that of the boomers, that it will be my generation, the X, the one that will save the world. But I have to make amends on Gen Z, which only a short time ago I gave perhaps hastily for dead.
Even in a context of strong subjection to social media and excess stimuli, Generation Z kids are trying to fight to carve out a piece of heaven in this era of "late-stage capitalism". Of course, their goal of success is very different from that of previous generations. Perhaps they deserve attention for this very reason. After all, the oldest Gen Zs are 26, the youngest just 11. Consider the context, indeed: the horizon.
Gen Z's economic horizon is not rosy
The difficulties of Gen Z in the world of work are not few. Immersed in a time of global uncertainty, face enormous challenges. Do you want some? Graduation in times of pandemic, fear of inflation, wage stagnation, growing inequality. The nightmare of an atomic war and that of a recession are just two of the "nudges" that give them the feeling of being down an icy road.
No wonder a recent study have discovered and 45% of young people between 18 and 35 have given up savingwaiting for better times. In the meantime, 55% have put their retirement planning on hold, because even the deterioration of social protection systems, such as Social Security, is another tile from Gen Z onwards.
Again: a quarter of respondents to a McKinsey survey said do not anticipate retirement, and only 41% expect to own a home one day. Goals that seem distant, almost unattainable, and it's a short step from the mirage to the totem to be knocked down.
Well-being? It's not just about money
When it comes to financial well-being, Gen Z (by force and by love) seems to have turned the tables. It is no longer just about money, but about quality of life. They are not willing to stay in a toxic job or give up travel and experiences just to increase their bank account.
Traditional indicators of financial success (from owning a home to landing the office in a prestigious position at work) are less achievable, but also less attractive to Gen Z. Mental health, personal growth and fulfillment are values which are placed in first place over financial gain, or its mirage.
And so Gen Z is increasingly looking for ways to prioritize quality of life over financial achievement at all costs. Trends such as those on the "soft life", spread on TikTok, are a stark contrast to the millennial habit of working till you drop, breathlessly chasing financial stability.
The new ethos: enjoy the present
Some young people have adopted a kind of financial nihilism as a response to economic precariousness, abandoning traditional capitalist norms for more selfish and self-indulgent ones.
New and often controversial lifestyles are popping up on platforms like TikTok. Among girls, the "Bimbo" culture, for example: the rearguard aspiration to become an object girl. The hashtag "Bimbofication" he totaled over 275 million views on TikTok, while "sugar daddy relationships", seniors and high spenders, have seen a 74% increase during the pandemic on the SeekingArrangement platform.
Among men, there is a whole flowering of schemes to achieve personal financial goals, in defiance of the corporate hierarchy to climb or the "mess". If the promises of future well-being are false, why not think only of ourselves?
And then there are those who, in general, are reacting to the apparent financial decline of society by simply doing nothing. Living in the moment and enjoying life has become a popular Gen Z mechanism for coping with the pitfalls of this (perhaps) twilight phase of capitalism.
The radical rest and disconnection from traditional models
The importance of detaching from traditional ideals of success and reconnecting with one's well-being through self-care and rest is the emerging trend among Gen Z youth. The act of doing nothing as resistance has caught on among young people as well in China, through the simple act of tanping (literally "lie down flat").
Examples of this "radical" ideology include not marrying, not having children, not buying a house or a car, and refusing to work overtime or have a job in general.
Let's be clear: it is not a revolutionary struggle and we are not talking about the Che Guevaras of the new millennium. However, they could be the knots of a fabric that breaks, accelerating the crisis of capitalism. And in any case, Gen Z could be the first generation in a long time not to end up making things worse.
The impact of Gen Z
New attitudes in Gen Z will have a lasting impact on every industry. It's too early to tell what the effects of this huge repositioning of financial and life goals will be, but it's never too early to start figuring out how to prepare.
In summary: if capitalism has ridden the dreams of our fathers, Gen Z could awaken those of our children, and I would be happy.