The Varkey Foundation released a study that claims to be the first and largest global survey of Generation Z attitudes in 2017 because there’s “very little in-depth reputable polling on the opinions and attitudes of Generation Z.” It surveyed 20,088 young people ages 15 to 21 from 20 representative countries in 2016. They were part on online research panels, meaning they all had acess to the Internet. Their results reinforced my Global SpeakOut survey findings that youth attitudes are “remarkably similar” globally: They’re generally happy, comfortable with diversity, value helping others, are not religious, and are most influenced by their parents. Their parents are the main influence on their values (89%)–followed by friends and teachers–and 67% have a good relationship with their parents. Only 30% say celebrities influence their values and less than 17% report being influenced by politicians. Family is their priority for the future, more so than health, career, or money. Only 42% say religion is significant to them (especially in Africa), while 39% say it has no significance to them (especially in Japan, Australasia, and Europe). Instead of religion they value service to others; 67% think that making a wider contribution to society is important, especially if they gain more skills and knowledge.
The Digital Natives have faith that technology (84%) and education (80%) will make the future better, but in 16 out of 20 countries more young people believe the world is becoming worse. Overall, 37% think the world is getting worse, only 20% think it’s getting better, and the rest didn’t pick either possibility. The most pessimistic are in Western developed countries, France and Italy, while emerging countries of China and India have the highest percentage of optimistis about the future. The lack of good education makes 69% of them worry about the future. They’re more concerned about extremism and terrorism (83%) than climate change (66%), except in China. There pessimism is not surprising when they grew up with rapid change, growing inequality, terrorism, the refugee crisis, poor education in many developing nations, the rise of populism, climate change and probably the first generation to that will be worse off than their parents.
Two-thirds (68%) say they’re happy; more so in emerging countries (Indonesia, Nigeria, and India) than in developed countries (France, Australasia and the UK). The older respondents and the young women were less happy than younger and male respondents. The least happy Gen Z respondents live in Japan and South Korea. More than half (60%) think their country is a good place to live. However, over two-thirds lack overall emotional well-being, as measured by they don’t think about their problems too much, they don’t feel anxious, lonely, unloved or bullied. Only 17% think they get enough sleep, exercise, and time for reflection so it’s not surprising that they don’t feel content. Their main sources of anxiety are money and school.
Gen X has liberal viewpoints: Opposing prejudice, 89% believe men and women should be treated equally (especially in Canada and China), 74% believe that transgender people should have rights, 66% believe in safe and legal abortion, 63% believe same-sex marriage should be legal, but only about half believe in free speech if it’s offensive to religion or minority groups. Support for free speech is highest in Turkey and Argentina, countries with a history of authoritarian governments, and lowest in Nigeria and China. Young people in 14 out of the 20 countries are supportive of immigrant rights in their country. Few think a person’s religion is an important factor in selecting a friend. Only 3% think fame is the most important factor in choosing a career.
Emma Broadbent, et al., “Generation Z: Global Citizenship Survey,” Varkey Foundation, January 2017.