Mediaweek’s A to Z of 2023: Z is for Gen Z

“Gen Z may not only break the rules, they may re-write them entirely.”

To wrap up 2023, Mediaweek is looking at the biggest trends, events, platforms, and brands of the year.

Welcome to Mediaweek’s A to Z of 2023 … and beyond.

By Howard Parry-Husbands, CEO, Pollinate

The last letter of the alphabet may fittingly signal the end of the road for much that came before: Gen Z is looking like the generation that will challenge convention so extensively that they may not only break the rules, they may re-write them entirely.

Gen Z has only ever known catastrophe. Their entire lives have been framed by climate change that has seen them experience a “record-breaking” year of drought, floods, bushfires, or other natural disasters not just once but for every year they have been alive.

Boomers lived through post-war prosperity and man on the moon. Gen X enjoyed the spoils of record-breaking years of economic growth. Millennials were digital pioneers. Previous generations all believed in hard work and a fair go in the hope of a brighter future. When they were young, Boomers and Gen X both defined themselves as hard-working and hopeful in their characteristics.

But Gen Z does not share that hope. Most of Gen Z doesn’t even hope to own the house their parents have. Gen Z is the first Australian generation that does not characterise itself as hard-working, while hope ranks 10th in their list of how they define themselves.

Because why should they work hard when there is so little to hope for?

When Pollinate researched youth 10 years ago, we discovered that they expected to have completed their first career – in tech, digital or social media – by their thirties. Then they were going to leverage their wealth and switch to a passion project to spend time with their family. Today, the youth value creativity above all else and are seeking change, while Boomers and Gen X want security and stability above all else.

What’s most telling, however, is that young people are more likely to list indigenous culture as one of the best things about Australia, while Boomers are more likely to rate Indigenous culture among the worst things about Australia. Similarly, Gen Z are more likely to state climate and weather are one of the worst things about Australia (for them, it’s further evidence that climate change is a very real, very present danger) and, in stark contrast,

Boomers are more likely to rate the weather and climate as one of the best things about Australia. Generational differences are normal; they’re to be expected, but the increasing generational polarisation as older wealthy people seek greater security and reject change while younger people seek change and challenge convention is new. It is a fundamental values schism emerging across Australian society.

It is quite possible that Gen Z rejects the values of older Australians because they see them as morally indefensible. Seventy-nine per cent of Gen Z believe Australia is still the ‘Lucky Country’, higher than all other generations (Only 64% of Gen X agree). But the orientation has shifted: Gen Z sees the fragility of Australia’s natural environment and the need to transform the system, whereas older generations see Australia’s natural resources as a bounty to exploit and don’t acknowledge the implications.

Gen Z sees the importance of environmental sustainability and also understands that it’s not sustainable for society to carry on as it is. If brands and businesses do not create opportunities for Gen Z and champion the change they want to see, then why should Gen Z support them in the future?

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