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Deloitte’s Survey Finds These Generations Are Most Concerned With The Cost Of Living And The Looming Effects Of AI

Now in its 13th year, Deloitte’s 2024 Gen Z and Millennial Survey connected with nearly 23,000 respondents across 44 countries, examining the evolving circumstances shaping the workplace and the societal experiences of these generations globally.

For the more than 500 respondents in New Zealand, cost of living remains the top concern with 56% of Gen Zs and 72% of millennials ranking it number one amongst other issues including ‘mental health of their generation’, ‘crime and personal safety’ and ‘climate change.’ While still the main concern for global Gen Zs (34%) and millennials (40%), cost of living is closely followed by unemployment and climate change.

“For the third year in a row we’re seeing cost of living cited as the number one societal concern, and in much higher numbers here at home compared to the rest of the world. While there is cautious optimism that circumstances may improve, financial insecurity is driving a lot of issues for our young people,” says Deloitte New Zealand Partner, Lauren Foster.

Despite societal pressures, the younger generations are feeling generally more positive.

Despite these concerns, the younger generations are citing a more positive outlook on mental health, with nearly half of Gen Zs and millennials in New Zealand saying their current mental well-being is good or extremely good. In positive news for Gen Zs, the percentage of respondents who say they feel stressed or anxious most of the time has dropped from 51% to 45% since the same survey in 2023.

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This could be due to a sense of hope that things are due to get better. Just under a third of Gen Zs and millennials across the world believe the economic situation in their countries will improve over the next year—the highest percentage since the 2020 Millennial Survey, fielded just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, nearly half of Gen Zs (48%) and four in 10 millennials (40%) expect their personal financial situations to improve over the next year. However, New Zealanders are slightly less optimistic with just under a third feeling that their personal financial situation is set to improve.

Employers are making some progress when it comes to better workplace mental health, but there is still much room for improvement when it comes to its overall value in the workplace. 33% of Gen Zs and 22% of millennials in New Zealand said that their job is a factor contributing a lot to their feelings of anxiety or stress.

Despite this, there are improvements in the way that mental health is openly spoken about with close to three quarters of New Zealand Gen Zs and millennials claiming to have senior leaders who talk about the importance of prioritising mental health.

Gen Zs are ‘uncertain’ about AI, while millennials are ‘fascinated’

In New Zealand, 36% of Gen Zs rank ‘uncertainty’ as their top emotion when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), while millennials have a slightly more positive view with 38% being ‘fascinated’ by it.

The survey also finds that women express greater uncertainty about Generative AI (GenAI) than men do and are less likely to feel comfortable working alongside it. A lack of familiarity may accentuate feelings of uncertainty, as despite its prevalence, just 14% of Gen Zs and 18% of millennials in New Zealand claim to be frequent users of GenAI at work.

“Artificial Intelligence is one of those things where the more you use it, the more you increase your confidence and overall abilities. We’ve found that embracing and promoting the use of GenAI in particular has led to our people being more empowered around its use to aid their work – this has included everything from internal upskilling in AI fluency, to introducing our own chat tools,” says Foster.

Those who do use GenAI at work all or most of the time are more likely to feel trust and excitement than uncertainty. They are also more likely to believe GenAI will free up their time, improve the way they work, and improve their work/life balance. But, conversely, frequent users of GenAI are also even more likely to have certain concerns, such as believing that GenAI-driven automation will eliminate jobs and make it harder for young people to enter the workforce.

In response to these types of concerns, both generations are focused on reskilling and training. However, less than half of New Zealand Gen Zs (44%) and even less millennials (36%) say their employer is sufficiently training them on the capabilities, benefits, and value of GenAI.

Gen Zs and millennials believe GenAI will have a significant impact on their career paths and the way in which they work. Nearly six in 10 global Gen Zs (59%) and just over half of millennials (52%) believe the prevalence of GenAI will make them look for job opportunities that are less vulnerable to automation, such as skilled trades or manual labour.

A slow return to the office

Globally, work/life balance remains the top priority for both Gen Zs and millennials when choosing an employer. The ability to maintain a positive work/life balance is also the top thing they admire in their peers, well above other traditional markers of success like job titles and material possessions. Yet many are not achieving the balance they seek. Around a third of respondents who regularly feel anxious or stressed say their job and work/life balance contribute a lot to their stress levels, fueled significantly by long working hours (51% of both generations), and a lack of control over how or where they work (44%).

“Gen Zs and millennials expect a lot from their employers, but it boils down to a few perfectly reasonable requests – meaningful work, some flexibility to balance work and home commitments, pathways to continue their own professional development, and supportive environments that protect their mental health rather than damage it,” continues Foster.

The last year has seen a continued shift towards more on-site work, both globally and in New Zealand, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying their employers have recently implemented a return-to-office mandate, either bringing people back fully on-site or moving to a hybrid model. These mandates have yielded mixed results, with some reporting benefits like improved engagement, connection and collaboration, while others are experiencing increased stress, decreased productivity and even negative financial effects with the cost of commuting.

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