A bunch of "lazy, self-entitled kids who can’t take criticism and don’t know the value of hard work."
This is the description often attributed to the millennial generation but this is typically based in an older generation’s way of thinking.
During conversations with other millennials, many make the comment that they are personally hard-working and want a quality life, but say they generally think of other millennials as lazy.
Who are the millennial generation?
While numbers differ between researchers, millennials are generally described as those who came of age during the new millennium, hence the term millennials. They’re born between the years 1980 and 2000.
According to Canadian Business, Canada’s millennials are considered the largest age group and the largest generation in the country’s workforce, now outnumbering baby boomers.
Millennials are more digitally connected than previous generations such as Generation X (1960-1979) and baby boomers (1946-1959).
In fact millennials have the nickname ‘digital natives,’ meaning people who were brought up during the age of technology and are familiar with technology and the Internet from an early age. This also means that most aspects of life are dedicated to technology, but there’s a worry technology will start taking over job opportunities.
For the younger millennial Calgarians it seems the most important issues are student debt, buying a house, differing generational morals and finding a place in the current struggling economy.
Taya Schneider is a 23-year-old millennial. The nursing student goes to Columbia College in Calgary and was set to graduate in December 2016. In the chilly basement of her parents' home she sits on the couch across from the TV where a rerun of Game of Thrones plays in the background.
Schneider plays with her light blonde hair as she talks about her dream of becoming a homeowner. But Schneider’s goal is starting to feel like a pipedream. She says she started saving some money for a home, but it all went towards her tertiary education -- a venture that put her into debt.
“I have a plan on how to buy a house and plan to save eventually,” she says. “But I can’t think about doing that until I have got my student loans paid off. There is no point in trying to save when I could be trying to pay off my student loans and get out of debt and not have to pay interest on the loans.”
Millennials and money
Student debt seems to be a huge factor in how millennials plan their futures. Since the beginning of their educations, teachers and parents have been telling them to go to university and earn a degree.
There are roughly 55,000 post-secondary students attending schools in Calgary with an average full-time payment of about $3,000-$5,000 per semester. In 2016, Student Aid Alberta projected 77,000 students in Alberta would be lended $579 million, up from the $537 million students received the year before.
Canadian student loan debt reached an all-time high in 2016 at $25,000. This debt affects the way millennials live, including their living situations and the jobs they look for.
When looking at the Calgary housing market, prices have risen in accordance with increased mortgages, inflation and demand. However, Calgary has seen an increase in housing prices in the past few years with the average price of $472,529 in 2016 from $110,184 in 1980. This year has also seen a drop in sales due to the economy but housing is still expensive and taxes keep going up.
Schneider works a side job at Domino’s Pizza and studies nursing full time, just like over half of Canadian millennials currently in university. She’s been working since she was 14 and huffs at the idea that her generation is lazy, having worked too hard to get where she is today to be written off as a lagging millennial.
“I am working through school so I am not entitled in that way,” she says. “My parents aren’t paying for my school so I have to actually try to make those ends meet. Yes, I am living at home because it is too expensive to live anywhere else, but I’ve being working since I was 14 and so I don’t really feel entitled.”
Are millennials lazy?
This sentiment comes down to individual interactions and differing generational values.
Nineteen-year-old Jezelle Daklala plans to go to university next year to study psychology. She graduated from Calgary’s St. Mary’s High School in 2015 and has been working at Sal’s Flatbread in Mount Royal University’s Wyckham House to save for her studies.
While she currently lives at home, like Schneider she plans to one day move out and purchase her own home.
As a younger millennial, Daklala says she’s experienced judgment about her generation far too many times.
“I still get treated like a kid,” she says.
“I go home after a long day of working and I want to relax. So I go on the Internet or watch Netflix. Then I get called lazy, but I’m not, they just don’t see what I do all day.”
While there are some baby boomers and Gen X’ers who would agree with this statement, the conception seemingly remains that millennials are a lazy group.
Nancy Smith is a baby boomer born in the tale end of the generation. A mother of two millennials, both of whom are in their late twenties, she stands behind the idea that millennials are lazy but believes it may be a result of parenting.
“I think every generation has wanted to make the lives of their children better than what they had,” she says.
“The millennial generation is a product of this and there is so much information available to parents and caregivers at the touch of a button. There is so much peer pressure coming at parents from all of these sources making them feel even guiltier in their parenting skills and practices. Not only are parents bombarded with this, but this generation has access to it as well, thus making them more demanding in their expectations.”
Smith explains that peer pressure between parents leads them to grant each whim of their children, making them unable to function very well without parental aid. This also means those parents’ (now) adult children come to rely on them far more than previous generations did.
As the world changed and both parents began to work, Smith believes parents began to substitute the time they would have spent with their children with giving them whatever they wanted, resulting in a more entitled generation.
“I fear because of this generation’s self-absorption it will lead to a situation like the one in the movie Wall E where the people become fat, lazy and unmotivated,” she says.
Millennials and the economy
When looking at the Calgary housing market, prices have risen in accordance with increased mortgages, inflation and demand. Since 1980 the average price of a Calgary home has risen by over $300,000.
The recent economic downturn has also hurt millennials. A 2016 report from Equifax Canada showed Calgary had the highest national debt of the major Canadian cities that year. And while Canadian millennials have less debt than the other age groups, they do have the highest numbers of delinquency, meaning they are less likely to be able to pay off their debt.
This debt is in part due to student loans. Schneider explains how student loans can make it harder to get a loan from the bank.
“I have to pay that loan off before I can get a loan through the banks for the house,” she says. “Like I can’t have both at one time, I tried to get a loan through the bank for school but they wouldn’t accept me because I had a loan from the government for my student loans.”
Millennials and the job market
Schneider considers herself lucky, as a nurse she expects to have a guaranteed job for the rest of her life.
Most millennials aren’t so lucky.
With longer lifespans, older generations are staying in their jobs longer before retiring.
StatsCan reported in February 2016 there was an employment growth for men and women over the age of 55, yet growth was down for the other population groups. The general consensus amongst millennials is that there are fewer options for entry-level jobs, fewer opportunities to move up in a career and a belief that old business structures, such as the 9-5 mentality, are outdated. But millennials are trying to find other options and are more likely to want to open their own business despite the risks and costs involved.
When asked whether having a home, kids and a good job was attainable for her generation, Schneider was divided.
“If you are very successful and have a well-paying profession and your spouse has a well-paying profession, then yes I feel it is attainable that way,” she says.
With new mortgage rules recently introduced by the federal government, Calgary millennials may have to rent for a little while longer. The new rules mean home buyers will have to use more money from their own pockets for the down payment, with less money from lenders.
That means house-hunters may have to look for cheaper homes depending on their budget or simply keep renting.
While the future may seem bleak, millennials don’t seem worried and instead are finding their paths in life just like the gen x’ers and baby boomers did before them.
Each generation changes from the one before and change brings contempt for those entrenched in their ways. One day the millennials in charge might be shaking their heads at younger generations too.
- By Andrea Roberts