What are the millennials doing wrong

Comment: The Millennials - a misunderstood generation

Let's play a game: what words do you associate with the term "millennial"? Hipster? Spoiled? Egocentric? Young people whining about not being taken seriously while staging a fancy avocado toast on Instagram?

The term "millennials" is much more associated with overwhelming debts, emigration for economic reasons and a tireless urge to work. That doesn't sound exactly right, do you think? Perhaps this is because the reality of life for milliennials is very different from what has often been portrayed. And it is precisely this portrayal that mocks their problems and does not recognize their resilience and optimism.

The generation of millennials

One clarification in advance: I myself belong to the millennial generation, which includes people who were born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. But the starting point of my observations is not personal outrage, but rather the pointed remark of a member of the pan-European political movement "Volt Europa".

Not so long ago I took part in a Volt Deutschland roundtable in Bonn to report on the party about which the magazine "Politico" wrote: "It is made up of pro-European political geeks from the millennial generation advanced ". Did the Politico editors mean that ironically or were they seriously trying to describe a party that was founded in 2017 by three Europeans in their late twenties? When I asked the students and young professionals at the Volt meeting for exactly this label, some got upset, including the group's finance manager, a young millennial himself: "People complain that we are not politically active. If we do, then but if we do, we get such stamps directly. This is because there is a certain disregard in most descriptions of the millennial generation.

If you don't want to know anything about your peers

Interestingly enough, Millennials often tend not to want to be identified with their generation at all - at least more often than previous generations. Probably also because of the negative connotations of this stamp. It is further alleged that millennials would not vote - even though the turnout of this generation in the US was higher in 2016 than in 2012. And they were wrongly blamed for the outcome of the Brexit referendum because they did not vote be. They say they fail real life relationships because they depend on social media, and they shirked work to waste money on overpriced lattes at the nearest hip cafe instead of saving for their future.

DW editor Cristina Burack

The fact is, however, that millennials have to cope with very tough framework conditions simply because of the coincidence of their birth years. The global financial crisis hit them with full force, hindered their entry into working life and set them back at the normal milestones of life. Contrary to popular claims, they are not "digital natives", but have witnessed the rise of Internet technology and directly felt its destructive consequences.

The fact that millennials have a hard time is only slowly arriving in the public consciousness. And it will probably take longer before it is recognized that they are actually very hardworking. The belief that working hard is a way to get ahead is ingrained in their psyche - often thanks to their baby boomer generation parents who experienced just that. But millennials often get stuck despite hard work - and then they work even harder just to stay afloat.

Actually, they should be populists

In the United States, many of them are trying to get by somehow despite stifling student debts and stagnating wages. In Italy, it is this generation in particular that is affected by the massive cuts in public spending. Many young people have to go abroad to find work. In Germany, many millennials are stuck between various mini-jobs that they can hardly make a living from. The trend is towards the "gig economy" and fixed-term contracts without financial security. If economic uncertainty leads to more populism, the EU should theoretically fear a flood of millennials in the European elections in May.

But when it comes to national identities, millennials are more open than the generations before them. This can also be seen in the pan-European Volt movement. It is still small, but it attracts supporters of all ages who share the openness of Millennials and their desire for a socially and economically fairer EU. These goals are shaped by the experiences of millennials. They are hopeful answers to the special challenges of this generation. So it's high time to really listen to these young people. You have completely different problems than finding the next "avocado toast".