Employers are not interested in Generation Z

Generation Z are struggling to find jobs. According to Statistics Netherlands, a whopping 9% of young people are unemployed. Generation Z is a fast-growing section of the employment-age population, but factors including the economy and cultural differences with older employees are leading some employers to view Generation Z job applicants unfavourably.

Weaknesses in the Dutch economy
For any age group, a spike in unemployment usually accompanies an economic downturn. Indeed, the Dutch economy has had a tough time recently. Rob Witjes of the UWV benefits agency says weakness in the economy ‘certainly plays a role’ in high youth unemployment. ‘Employers are reluctant to extend contracts or hire temporary workers,’ he says.

There are many reasons for current economic difficulties. Global geopolitical factors like the war in Ukraine, disruption in the Middle East and the economic hangover from the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to high inflation and high interest rates. Also, high taxes, negative sentiment towards immigration, and unpredictable regulation from The Hague and Brussels have resulted in a quarter of companies wanting to leave the Netherlands, another sign of economic difficulties which may feed into youth unemployment.

Social media
Beyond broad economic issues, there may be some obstacles unique to Generation Z which are making it more difficult to find employment. Some research, such as that conducted by Pro Contact, a global recruitment company which conducts surveys of its clients about applicants, has found that social media and other factors can affect the employability of Generation Z job applicants.

Willem Bos, director and co-owner of Pro Contact, reports that the generation of Instagram and TikTok ‘shaped’ Generation Z. He notes that social media became a lifeline for young people during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when they were cut off from the outside world. Growing up in a world of social media may have had an effect on the way young people view work.

Demands out of kilter
Bos also found that more than half of the employers his company surveyed (52%) see young prospective employees are too expensive. The salaries they demand are ‘ridiculously high’, says Bos, ‘which encourages lopsided growth’. He adds that young people also have high expectations about climbing the seniority ladder. ‘They think they can get promoted within a year,’ according to almost half of the surveyed employers.

Besides the price tag, the research also suggests there is a lack of harmony between Generation Z and their older colleagues in the workplace. Some employers reported finding it difficult to meet Gen Z employees’ expectations about the nature of work. 52% of employers complained Gen Z believes their work ‘has to be fun, and if they don’t like it, they are quickly on their way to the exit.’

Different perceptions
However, this damning view of Generation Z is not universally shared. Some argue young people are perceived unfairly due to cultural stereotypes. Daniëlle Schreurs, a Generation Z expert, says she does not ‘have any research showing that Gen Z is too expensive or too demanding. Not more than other generations, in any case. This is mainly a period effect.’

According to Schreurs, high salary demands and workplace expectations of Generation Z have nothing to do with entitlement among young people. Instead, she says, they are the result of a natural generational progression. Salaries go up over time, as does the cost of living, and young people may be more in tune to those incremental changes thanks to their online lifestyles.

Past and future
‘Young people have actually always been considered lazy by older generations,’ says Schreurs. ‘Aristotle and Plato also made statements about this, so it is not a surprising reaction.’ Perhaps, then, in decades to come, it will be Generation Z employers turning down applications from applicants twenty or thirty years younger than them, thanks to concerns about their expectations. In any case, for the time being, Generation Z face an uphill struggle to find well-paying jobs which allow them to feel fulfilled in the workplace and meet their costs of living.

Written by Jason Reed