Millennials, or the generation Y, following the generation X can largely be defined as the generation born from the early 1980s to early 2000s. In other words the millennials are today’s adults. India with its largest youth population enjoys a great demographic dividend that puts it at enviable position of realising a high growth rate. India’s young are mobile, driven, and socially conscious. The millennials are country’s asset. Yet the adult life is not proving easy on the young generation.
In an extremely popular essay ‘Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy’ in Wait but Why, Tim Urban explores this central question. He argues that young people are coming into the workforce with a majorly elevated sense of self and entitlement but little patience (the special snowflake argument). Combine this with real life struggles, and social media where everyone’s achievements are exaggerated and life is presented as a careful construct, and their despondency increases. He suggests that if happiness is reality minus the expectations then this illicit pursuit of happiness is bound to fail.
There is some merit to this argument. Integration into the global economy and media has meant that in theory plethora of information and opportunities are available to the young Indian. However intense competition has ensured that demand far outstrips supply. The elevated sense of self and ego is bound to take a hit. It has become harder for this generation as most of them are seeking jobs in the wake of one of the worst global recession and scarcity of jobs. In India alone job creation is at an all time low. Restructuring in industries and areas such as telecom, banking and software, and automation, has meant millions of layoffs. The start-ups, which started with much promise, have been slowly waning and are saddled with poor work culture, untenable loans, and outright shutdowns.
The scramble for jobs has meant that young people are often working for meagre salaries, no employment security, long working hours, and often in jobs for which they are far overqualified. Indian millennial is saving less, investing less, and future planning which gives security and happiness is almost non-existent. The situation has led to a large number of educated and driven Indians increasingly finding themselves without meaningful work and resultant mental health problems that accompany such frustration.
Easy access to social media has guaranteed that millennials are in a state of constant comparison. It remains of little consequence to note that most of social media activity is veered towards image crafting and recounting only life’s major achievements. Most users see it as a reflection of real life. Scrolling through posts is looking at other people’s promotions, new jobs and houses, wedding and baby announcements, vacations and outings etc. This is often enough to fuel feelings of unhappiness and inadequacy. Indeed recent research on the increasing use of social media has shown adverse affects on health, and links to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
Indian millennial is also living in the interesting time when patriarchy and privilege is being increasingly challenged putting the young Indian woman in the crux of a battlefield. Debates on feminism have generated a dynamic discourse whereby women have started questioning antiquated norm and customs, restrictions on their choices and mobility, and are aspiring for ambitious careers. Yet their expectations are being constantly thwarted by a society that remains patriarchal and geared to control their mind and body. Indian women is thus constantly struggling in the workplace where she may be battling sexism and discrimination and homestead where she is still expected the play the traditional role of homemaker and wife. Large number of Indian men on the other hand, who are still operating within traditional gender roles construct, are looking at debates on equality as an attack on male privileges. The result, for young Indians, is a necessary but sometimes painful redefinition of gender roles and slow erosion of toxic masculinity.
Another source for unhappiness and anger of young Indian is increase in their political and social consciousness. Such grief is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that while the young Indian is increasingly becoming sensitised to, and troubled by, issues such as violence against women and minorities, regressive social norms, poverty, environment, and political apathy and corruption, they are also raising a voice against it. Young Indians are mobilising, speaking up and standing together for larger causes outside their immediate needs. They are unhappy with the prevalent inequalities, injustices, and discriminations. Challenge to the status quo often brings them in conflict with older generation, the establishment and the state, and the prevailing value system and social order. This can be upsetting and violent. Yet such grief that comes at the cost of blissful ignorance and happy apathy is welcome.
This is a silver lining. Stressed and despondent young Indian can channel their resentment to larger causes and cause a revolution to get a society that is sensitive to the needs of poor and weak. At the very least they can demand answers from the state about jobs and education, and negotiate with their parents about choices regarding career and love. At the same time if India is to realise its demographic dividend it must cater to the mental, physical, and material well being of its young dynamic citizens. Best advice to young people will be to stay ambitious and driven, to have a more realistic assessment of life and self worth, and to never be short of empathy and imagination.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.