The Pandemic Is Reshaping Gen Z And Their Priorities

The pandemic has reshaped Gen Z’s priorities, and businesses need to rethink their plans for reaching out to the group. Ernst & Young’s (EY) 2021 Gen Z Segmentation Study tracks the generation's personal and professional interests, as well as their outlook on issues ranging from mental health and climate change to social media and the workplace. Born between 1997 and 2007, the digitally native and globally conscious Gen Z’s are reportedly better prepared to adapt to the rapidly changing world, and businesses should prioritize understanding them to maintain engagement with future employees and customers.

Among Gen Z’s concerns identified by the survey are mental wellness and basic needs insecurity, while the group also showed an entrepreneurial streak and confidence that certain things will change.

The EY study found that 67 percent of Gen Z are moderately to extremely worried about their physical and mental health, with 42 percent frequently feeling anxious or depressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. That anxiety is not evenly distributed from a gender perspective, with more than half (51 percent) of women feeling anxious or depressed compared to only 34 percent of males. During the pandemic, nearly a fifth (19 percent) of Gen Z report rarely or never receiving the social and emotional support they need.

They’re also generally skeptical of others. The survey found that 60 percent of Gen Z say that most people can't be trusted, and 48 percent say most of the time people are just looking out for themselves. Trust may be improving though, as these levels are slightly lower than in 2019, which found 67 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Relatedly, 57 percent feel life will be the same or worse for future generations. Basic needs insecurity is also a common concern. Sixty-nine percent of Gen Z worried about running out of food since the onset of COVID-19, and over a fifth (21 percent) worried about it most of the time; notably, 28 percent lost their jobs, or had a family member who lost a job in the same time period.

Forty-five percent of Gen Z report being very or extremely likely to start their own business one day; and since the pandemic began, 44 percent are more interested in starting a business. Since the pandemic began, males are more likely than females to have become more interested in entrepreneurialism (48 percent and 40 percent, respectively). Additionally, those already working are more likely (49 percent) to start their own business someday compared with those not in the workforce (43 percent).

They have a high confidence in change in certain areas, and are most confident that significant progress will be made regarding LGBTQ rights (85 percent), gender inequality (79 percent) and economic equality (68 percent). However, they are least confident in progress happening toward the federal budget deficit (35 percent) and immigration policy (51 percent).

For more on EY’s findings, click here.

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