Of the respondents to the Global Shapers Annual Survey 2016, 70% of millennials see the world full of opportunities and 50% believe they can actively contribute to decision-making in their countries.
The survey’s second edition was launched this week by the World Economic Forum. It offers unprecedented insights into the thinking, priorities and concerns of young people around the world. At its core is the Global Shapers Community, with more than 6,000 members in 171 countries and territories. Encouraged by their peers from the Shapers Community, more than 26,000 participants from 181 countries answered the survey in nine languages.
What keeps millennials up at night?
Across all regions, young people see corruption and a lack of government accountability as the most pressing problem in their countries. Other major concerns are lack of economic opportunity, deficits in the education system and poverty.
On a global level, for the second year in a row, millennials see climate change as the most serious issue affecting the world, followed by large-scale conflicts, religious conflicts and poverty.
When asked who could successfully tackle these challenges in their countries on the global level, millennials trust themselves most with solving local challenges (26%), followed by governments (20%) and civil society (17%). For global challenges, young people trust international organizations (26%) and, again, themselves (20%).
Self-perception: the end of the nation state?
Young people in the 18-35 age group define themselves most often as global citizens (36%). Another 22% see their nationality as the defining character, and 9% define themselves most strongly through their religious beliefs. Among the youngest demographic of 18-22 year olds, nationality is the dominant self-identify, with global citizens a close second. A closer look at the regional responses reveals that religion plays a more prominent role for young people’s identity in the Middle East and South Asia, whereas every second respondent from East Asia and the Pacific region identify themselves through nationality.
Millennials are optimistic about technology, but . . .
Young people are fully embracing the potential of new technologies and use digital technologies daily across almost all regions – and 86% believe that technology, while destroying some jobs, will eventually be a driver of job growth. They believe that artificial intelligence and robots as well as the internet of things will be the biggest trends. A majority see education and healthcare benefiting most from new technologies.
The areas most affected by technologies within their own lives will be their careers (65%), education (55%) and mobility (42%). Despite the strong role of technological innovation in education, 48% believe that traditional classroom settings are still more effective than current technologies being used for educational purposes.
Privacy and the protection of personal data are the biggest technology headaches for millennials around the world. With 73% of millennials a large majority is saying they have avoided downloading certain apps out of concern for private data. The concern for digital privacy is most pronounced in East Asia and the Pacific region.
Laptops/personal computers remain the strongest platform for emails (63%) and online shopping (55%), while the smartphone is the unrivalled number one device for social media activities (82%).
Governments don’t get high approval ratings from young people when it comes to the adoption of new technologies, with 41% criticizing them as too slow. In Latin America (55%), Africa (55%) and the Middle East (49%), roughly every second millennial is unhappy with the government role in technology adoption. By contrast, North American respondents highly approve the fast and early adoption of new technologies by businesses (78%).
What do young people expect from governments and the private sector?
Millennials across all regions are most frustrated about the level of corruption among government leaders (58%); 30% complain about bureaucracy and 29% about the lack of accountability. The lack of honesty and integrity is the fourth most chosen answer.
When asked about possible remedies for corruption and how to create transparency, millennials support more consistent penalties for poor governance by officials (44%), followed by a call for the independence of the courts (38%) and more regular and open dialogue with citizens (33%).
Overall, 50% of the survey’s participants believe that they can contribute to shaping decision-making in their countries. Only in Europe is that number markedly lower, where a sceptic 44% believes they have very little influence on their countries’ decision-making.
The least trusted institutions for 47% of the survey respondents are national governments and media. However, 37% believe their employers to be fair and honest.
The biggest contribution from the private sector is job creation (36%) and economic development/foreign investment, with 20% of respondents choosing that option.
When it comes to their own careers, millennials are looking for jobs that provide a fair salary (54%), a growth perspective (45%) and a sense of purpose (36%). And 74% are confident, or extremely confident, that they bring the rights skills to the job market. There is less optimism for career prospects, with only 54% optimistic or very optimistic about their job prospects.
Values: Inclusion a shared goal for young people
On average, the survey results suggest that the 18-35 age group have progressive values. However, there are some areas where the demographic is taking a more traditional approach. For example, more than half of all respondents are very comfortable with a woman leader – whether as direct manager, CEO of their company or president of their country – the answer choice that displays absolutely no discomfort with women leaders. On the other hand, a significant proportion of almost 50% show some discomfort. Five per cent of respondents chose the answer that displays the highest level of discomfort. Remarkably, male and female respondents have the same levels of comfort or discomfort about female superiors.
On the question of earnings, however, only a remarkable 67% of men are either comfortable or very comfortable with their female partners earning more than them. Women take a more progressive view, with 75% answering the questions positively (which still leaves a quarter of female respondents being more traditional on the matter).
Globally, 53% of millennials are strongly in support of same-sex marriage: 13% agree somewhat; 13% are undecided; and a still sizeable minority of 22% opposes it. When placed against human development indices, it becomes apparent that support for same-sex marriage correlates to a country’s development levels (UNDP rankings) and income levels (World Bank categories). Outliers on the matter are the Middle East and Africa where a majority of young people disagree or strongly disagree.
A similar picture emerges on the question of unmarried couples having a child: 70% globally find it acceptable, with the majority of young people from the Middle East and Africa in opposition.
Refugees are welcome
There is a more unified global response on the question of refugees: 67% describe their feelings towards refugees as empathy. At opposite ends of the spectrum, 10% see refugees as a gift to their nations (17% in the US) or a threat; 73% would welcome refugees to their countries; 22% would go so far as to accept refugees into their homes.