Millennials upbeat despite economic woes, corruption: WEF Survey

Less than 50 per cent of respondents expressed empathy for refugees.
Less than 50 per cent of respondents expressed empathy for refugees.PHOTO: REUTERS

Today's young people are an inclusive and optimistic bunch, a recent survey conducted by the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers community suggests.

Corruption and economic concerns may keep millennials up at night, but 70 per cent still see a world full of opportunities - and most believe that all should be able to take advantage of them.

Launched on Monday (Aug 22), the second edition of the Global Shapers Annual Survey aims to provide valuable insight into the thinking, concerns and priorities of people between 18 and 35 around the world.

Response was good, with over 26,000 participants from 181 countries answering the survey in nine languages, up from just 2,000 respondents last year.

The survey found inclusion to be of importance to young people, with most respondents displaying progressive values. More than half of all respondents report being very comfortable with women managers, CEOs and presidents, while only 5 per cent express extreme discomfort with women in positions of power.

When it comes to problems plaguing the world today, youth rank corruption and a lack of economic opportunity as the top issues affecting their countries, while climate change continues to top the list of global concerns.

Political corruption and a lack of government accountability is perceived as a particularly pressing problem, with 57 per cent of respondents indicating this issue as one of the top three concerns in their country.

Still, 50 per cent of millennials display confidence in their ability to influence decision-making in their countries and many place more trust in themselves (26 per cent) than in the government (20 per cent) or civil society (17 per cent) to solve local problems.

Lack of economic opportunity and employment is another major concern, with 34 per cent of millennials regarding it as a pressing issue in their country.

However, while many fret over the potential impact of new technology on employment rates, the survey suggests that most young people are optimistic rather than fearful.

Eighty-six per cent of respondents believe that technology is creating rather than destroying jobs, and although most believe that people not skilled in technology will struggle to find a job in the future, 74 per cent are confident, or extremely confident that they possess the right skills to be successful.

East Asians seem particularly optimistic, with 94 per cent of respondents from the region holding fast to the belief that technology is having a positive impact on employment.

The results also suggest a shift away from nationality and religion as dominant ways of self-identifying. Thirty-six per cent of young people identify as "global citizens", compared with just 22 per cent who view their nationality as the key component of their identity.

In this area, East Asia diverges from other regions, standing out as the only region in which an overwhelming number of millennials (50 per cent) define themselves first and foremost by nationality.

The region is also the most hostile towards refugees, with less than 50 per cent of respondents expressing empathy for refugees and 16 per cent viewing them as a threat to security - the highest proportion of any region.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents strongly support same-sex marriage, although numbers vary greatly between regions.

East Asian millennials were slightly less accepting than their European and Latin American counterparts, with only 43 per cent expressing strong support for same-sex marriage.