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Breaking the Gen Y stereotype

Generation Y has been labelled everything from unmotivated slackers to a selfish, pragmastic and trend-conscious bunch of pompous punks. But according to Mark Basile, it is the conservative and materialistic society which has created the Yers - and it's time to put an end to the stereotypes.

Generation Y are the spoilt generation who have spent too long on the gravy train and don’t know what to do now that it has been derailed by the global financial crisis.  That’s the message coming from the government this weekend with Employment Participation Minister Mark Abib telling young people to shelve their ambition and take any job that is available.

This message was reinforced in the Murdoch press which ran an article highlighting a 25-year-old who had managed 70 job changes in her short career.  It would seem that the common perception is that Generation Y are spoilt brats who would rather throw a tantrum than do a hard day’s work, spending their pay checks on an outlandish lifestyle rather than paying off a mortgage.

However the reality is that for most in Generation Y the gravy train hasn’t been so lucrative. The norm dictated by society is a lengthy university degree with a sizeable HECS debt to match.  For most, this means entering the workforce at twenty-two with a debt that runs into tens of thousands of dollars.  While for a lucky few this culminates in multiple job offerings, the experience of most is a dose of harsh reality.

Everyone has a university degree, a work history and a bunch of extra-curriculas – which translates to either unemployment or accepting a job in a field which has nothing to do with the degree they expended time and money in obtaining.  And all of this was before the global financial tsunami hit.

For all the talk about Generation Y, seeking flexibility in employment is often something that is forced upon them, rather than one which is actively sought.  The concept of job sharing, working from home and casual hours are a reality that previous generations have not had to negotiate.

And if the trends in relation to marriage and childcare arrangement are anything to go by, Generation Y are seeking more stability in employment and family relationships then Generation X, who had to ‘do everything’ and ‘have everything’, often by yesterday.

The notion that beggars cannot be choosers is not a new concept to Generation Y.  It has been something that they have been dealing with for all their working lives.  If the mantra of Generation X is to tell the baby boomers to hurry up and die because they are preventing them moving up the job ladder, Generation Y are less greedy – they just want the end of the stereotype that they change jobs more often than Imelda Marcos changed her shoes.

It is true that Generation Y will have more jobs over the course of their careers than generations before, but the changing direction of their employment is more likely to be linked to being pushed by market conditions or employers using the veil of flexibility to improve their bottom line rather than Generation Y jumping.

So if Generation Y must be compared to Imelda Marcos changing shoes, it’s more akin to Imelda being forced to change shoes when pushed into exile.

Mark Basile is a final-year Law/Media Studies student at La Trobe University.

What do you think?

Is the global financial crisis a real slap in the face for Gen Y, the generation labelled as lazy, selfish, impatient, arrogant, apathetic, disrespectful and restless?

Or is the long list of adjectives dominating the media space simply misplaced and baseless?

Write your comments below, or drop us a line at

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