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NEW DELHI : One of the defining moments of 2019 came almost at the end of the year: Young students from universities across the country out protesting against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and raising slogans in solidarity with colleagues who faced the brunt of police brutalities. These protests are arguably the biggest pan-India protests the country has witnessed since the anti-corruption agitation of 2011, which led to the formation of a new political outfit, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and helped a three-time chief minister, Narendra Modi, to stake claim to national leadership.

And if social media platforms Facebook and Twitter were the key vehicles of mobilization eight years ago during the anti-corruption movement, photo-sharing app Instagram and short video sharing app TikTok appeared to have replaced them in these protests.

Data from the first round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in mid-2018 had shown that among urban post-millennials or Gen Z, Instagram had replaced Facebook as the more popular social media platform. Among younger millennials, the two had similar appeal, the data suggests.

Gen Z vs previous generations

Beyond social media usage, how different is the Gen Z from earlier generations?

The data from the second round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in the first two months of this year suggest that this generation is perhaps a bit more political compared to millennials. Around 25% of Gen Z adults (18-22 years) said they had participated in some form of protests and rallies compared to 22% among millennials. Gen Z adults are also slightly less supportive of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s performance compared to their older cohorts.

Generation Z more tolerant than other generations
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Generation Z more tolerant than other generations
Generation Z more concerned by unemployment and women's safety
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Generation Z more concerned by unemployment and women's safety
Family, work and time for themselves most important for Gen Z
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Family, work and time for themselves most important for Gen Z

The second round of the survey asked respondents their views on important social issues. And the responses revealed a clear pattern in age and views. Gen Z tends to hold liberal views on the most important social issues—but this is only relative to older generations. For instance, only 54% of Gen Z find same-sex marriage acceptable but this is still significantly higher than the equivalent proportion for Gen X (24%).

Political outlook

Generation Z or Gen Z is the term used to describe the generation of young men and women reaching adulthood at the end of the second decade of the 21st-century. And India’s generation is the largest in the world.

According to UN projections, there are currently 99.2 million Gen Z adults, aged between 18 and 22 years. This is roughly a fifth of the world’s entire Gen Z cohort, a proportion greater than China, the US and Europe.

The growing importance of this generation is reflected not just in these protests but also on the internet. Search interest in Gen Z on Google has steadily increased steadily over the years—both around the world and in India. Searches for the Gen Z on Google, a useful proxy of interest in a topic, peaked in 2019.

More than half of all Gen Z cited unemployment (55% of all respondents) and women’s safety (53%) as their biggest concerns during the second round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey. These were the biggest areas of concern for millennials and Gen X as well. In contrast, only 28.7% listed intolerance as an area of concern compared to 33% of older millennials and 35% of Gen X who listed that as an area of concern.

Issues of concern

The issue of jobs appears to be a source of worry for youngsters everywhere. According to a 2019 Deloitte survey of 3,009 Gen Zers from 10 countries, unemployment was the second biggest issue for the global Gen Z, just behind climate change.

Despite their youth and lack of work experience, employment, in general, seems to be very important for India’s Gen Z. When asked about what they considered important, India’s Gen Z prioritized family, work and spending time for themselves. More than 90% of Gen Z considered these three aspects either important or very important. Unsurprisingly, less important were factors such as marriage and religion which grow in importance with age.

Work-life balance

For older millennials and pre-millennials, religion and marriage hold more importance, the data from the second round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey showed.

The YouGov-Mint Millennial Surveys aim to examine the attitudes and outlook of India’s digital natives. Between mid-2018 and now, three rounds of the survey have been conducted soliciting the views of thousands of GenZ, millennials and pre-millennials, spread across 180 cities and towns of the country.

Unlike many millennials, who started using the internet after they grew up, Gen Z has grown up with the net, and naturally, spend much more time online, findings from the first round of the YouGov-Mint survey found. And a good chunk of this time is spent on online shopping. Almost all of Gen Z prefer to do their shopping online. Another key differentiator is the type of spending. Gen Z, unsurprisingly, tends to spend the least on big-ticket items such as houses and cars, as they have less accumulated savings compared to older age groups. According to the third round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted between September and October 2019, the biggest planned expenditure for Gen Z in the upcoming year is on consumer durables such as television sets and refrigerators. One big-ticket area where the Gen Z are outspending their older cohorts is vacations.

Lack of jobs causes pangs

All of this spending, though, is contingent on income. Because of the ongoing slump, Gen Z, many of whom will be entering the workforce soon, are pessimistic about finding a job. The third and latest round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey (Sep-Oct 2019) found that an overwhelming majority among the Gen Z believe it is difficult to find a job these days.

Unless India gets back to creating growth and jobs soon, these job-related anxieties of India’s youngsters would only grow. India’s political stability too could come under strain if these anxieties of the youth are left unaddressed.

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