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Time magazine recently did a cover story on the “Me-Me-Me Generation”. These are the people who fall in the age bracket of 18 to 29 years and are the children of the Baby Boomers. While we probably don’t define population groups in such terms in Pakistan, the sociological impact on markets, consumer behaviour, education and employment is certainly one to be recognised and dealt with.

Strictly speaking, our demographic would cover only the urban, educated lot (those sneeringly described as ‘Burgers’ or ‘Mummy-Daddy-types’ in the pre- and post-election debate). Some general observations about this group: they are people who are connected 24/7 to an electronic device and who choose to communicate online as opposed to face-to-face. They prefer not to read and so are unaware of world affairs or history, and frankly, couldn’t care less.

In the local context, there are three environmental factors that are contributing to this situation which parents are oblivious to: technology, security and tuitions.

Take Pakistan 30 years ago – one TV channel serving drivel and providing plenty of opportunity to read or play out on the streets. Now, with 80 channels, the internet and smartphones, the competition for time and attention is overwhelming. Everything is immediately available in a few clicks so the expectation of instant gratification is not unreasonable. Add to this the fact that it is unsafe for children to be out without security or supervision and you compound the problem. And with tuitions becoming a lucrative industry, teaching and learning can now be outsourced. Students therefore only focus on ‘passing exams’ and are uninterested in acquiring knowledge or analytical skills.

The big challenge for educators and employers is how to engage this demographic. All the policies, procedures and processes have been designed by people two generations older, who are struggling to come to terms with heavy doses of narcissism and high expectations coupled with wanting the easy way out.

Speaking of taking the easy way out, the burden of expectations by parents is that the education system will provide the necessary grounding in manners, etiquette, and inculcate the importance of reading and learning. In my opinion, the more engaged parents are with their children, the better will their approach to life and learning is. If not, we will end up with plenty of people having degrees but very few with an education.

The challenge for employers will be to manage or meet the expectations of this generation while not upsetting the older lot. Providing more technological interfaces and platforms along with creative compensation strategies may be some of the options they should consider.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is an executive coach, senior HR practitioner and writer.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 30, 2013.

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