Myths at work: the case of Generation Y

Pasi pyöriä

Dr. Pasi Pyöriä, Senior Lecturer at the University of Tampere (School of Social Sciences and Humanities)

Guest blog post by Dr. Pasi Pyöriä

In the mainstream media it is often argued that Generation Y, also known as the Millennials (born in the early 1980s and later), are a different kind of breed. The Millennials are said to change the world of work for good because they do not share the same values and work ethic than older generations.

The Millennials also are said to prefer free time and family more than work. Some social commentators go even so far as to say that work organizations have to change their leadership patterns in order to adapt to the needs and aspirations of younger generations.

Sure it is true that all generations are different. Why the Millennials shouldn’t question their authorities like all previous generations have done? This is natural progress. This has been the case before and it shall be the case in the future. No problem whatsoever.

However, arguments according to which the Millennials are totally different from older generations are far-fetched. As far as Finnish working life is concerned, generational differences are very small indeed if we care to take a close look into representative statistics.

Together with my colleagues Tiina Saari, Satu Ojala and Katri Siponen I decided to analyze Finnish wage and salary earners’ work attitudes. As a result of our thorough statistical exploration we didn’t find any significant generational gaps whatsoever.

Our analysis, focusing on labour market entrants aged 15–28, was based on the Finnish Quality of Work Life Surveys by Statistics Finland from 1984, 1997 and 2008. The following themes were studied: (1) the value given to work, free time and family; (2) work commitment (intention to change jobs).

According to our results, the value given to work has steadily stayed at a high level during the past decades regardless of age. At the same time leisure time as well as home and family have become increasingly important, reflecting a trend that applies not only to the Millennials but also to older generations.

What about changing lanes in the career path? Millennials plan to change their occupational field more often than older employees, but in this respect generational gap has not become any wider than before. Aspiration to change jobs is normal for young adults. All in all, the Millennials are not very different from their parents at least as far as Finland is concerned.

Our study was published in a peer-reviewed journal published by the Finnish association for administrative studies.

Pyöriä, Pasi & Saari, Tiina & Ojala, Satu & Siponen, Katri (2013) Onko Y-sukupolvi toista maata? Nuorten työorientaatio 1980-, 1990- ja 2000-luvuilla. Hallinnon Tutkimus 3/2013.


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