Study reveals Gen. Z concerned about future but ready to act in an unstable world

Credit: Fotolia
Credit: Fotolia

As many as 90 percent of today's Generation Z students, who are just entering the labour market, are concerned about economic instability, and as many as 86 percent are afraid of what the world will be like in the future, according to a recent study.

Twelve experts and a group of 500 students from the University of Warsaw and the Medical University of Warsaw took part in the study, the results of which are presented in the report 'JustStart2/Studying in the world of an uncertain tomorrow: perspectives, agency and visions for the future of Generation Z’.

Generation Z refers to people born in the late 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century.

According to the University of Warsaw: 'The purpose of the report is to look at the world through the eyes of students - get to know their vision of the future, perspectives and the sense of influence on the surrounding world and agency.” 

In doing so, the researchers addressed three questions: How does the young generation perceive the labour market? What are the students' expectations? What do they want to achieve? 

The report is divided into three areas: perspectives, agency and visions of the future.

The researchers found that the students they surveyed did not consider work to be a driving force in this world. The report said: “Work is meant to be a means to an end, which is an interesting, active and fulfilled life, rather than an end in itself.” 

They added that this is a completely different approach to work than their parents' generation had. Almost half of the surveyed students are already working.

The report also shows that when looking for a job, students will pay attention primarily to salary (77.5 percent) with another factor being  the values of a given organization. 

Two-thirds of respondents said it is important that the mission and/or vision of the organization is consistent with their own values. Additionally, 1/4 of the students would pay attention to whether the potential employer has a CO2 reduction plan. In this case, there is also a high consistency of opinions, regardless of gender. The report found that “the attitude of adopting sustainable development goals in the world as their own is also commendable.”

What will students not accept in their future work? The top responses were: discrimination, mobbing, unequal treatment of employees and injustice on the basis of gender. Aspects related to work-life balance are also important.

The report also shows that for Generation Z it is important that work is not a mechanical performance of activities, but a place where young people want to develop and have an impact on the world around them.

On the other hand - as the authors of the study write in the introduction for students - the search for balance between earning money and having private life is so strong that students often change jobs, positions, do not want to get caught up in a routine. It is important that, in addition to money, work should be a source of satisfaction.

The report shows that the surveyed students are characterized by a significant sense of uncertainty - as many as 90 percent of them believe that the economic situation is not stable, and 86 percent are afraid of what the world will be like in the future. More than half of them declare that they are not sure whether they will find a job that will give them satisfaction.

More than half of students believe that if they work hard, they can influence the direction of changes in the world. However, over 1/3 of them do not share this conviction.

The study shows that students are active and ready to act to change the surrounding reality.

Most students (60 percent) believe that responsible consumer choices are important. According to the surveyed students, political activity (50 percent) and activism/volunteering (43 percent) also have a strong influence on the environment.

Despite the declared activity, students are afraid of taking the lead, taking responsibility for others, for the local community, for the world. The researchers said: “This is due to low mental resilience. This is the trait most poorly assessed by the students themselves, one that is extremely important in today's world.”

During the pandemic, broadly understood resistance to stress turned out to be a significant trait. The report found that: “When faced with the challenges of everyday life, overstimulation, excess of content and tasks, many young people have a lower ability to cope with difficult situations, and sometimes even everyday ones. In addition, the change of place of residence, which is a frequent experience for students, is a great source of stress.”

The study shows, however, that Generation Z is very good at empathy, cooperation and critical and logical thinking.

Students live in a VUCA world - this is the name given to the present-day reality, in which the sense of stability is illusory, because this world is characterized by constant change and uncertainty. This world requires us to be flexible, constantly learn new skills and stimulate creativity. However, the authors of the study point out, “such variability of the modern world does not scare students, but rather gives them motivation.”

The acronym VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world. Despite their goals, soldiers should not make long-term plans. The key skill was to closely observe and respond to the current situation.

The authors of the report identify 10 trends that illustrate the challenges of today's world that Generation Z is facing, and represent the answer to the question: what will the world be like in the future? These are: 'Changing the role of formal education', 'Emphasis on the development of soft skills', 'Hybrid life', 'Digitisation of further areas of our life', 'Focus on results and deepwork', 'Work-life balance and flexibility', 'Individualisation and democratisation', 'Caring for the environment', 'Changing the leadership model' and 'UN goals - a certain plan in a world of uncertainty'.

The authors of the report advise students to see their success in self-improvement, studying and language skills, but not to forget about transversal competences, the essence of which is being in touch, relationship and dialogue with oneself, with others and with the world. These skills allow to understand and keep up with the changing environment.

The full text of the report is available on the University of Warsaw Incubator website.

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