They’ve been on the planet for just a little over two decades, but generation Z has already made quite an impression.
The first members of this huge cohort (estimated to make up roughly 17.6 per cent of the country’s population, according to Statistics Canada) were born in the mid-1990s. Although there’s no established start or end date for gen Z, the oldest of them are now somewhere in their early 20s.
They are emerging as entrepreneurs, innovators, protesters and social media gurus. They are digital natives, born into an internet-connected world and bred to navigate that world with ease.
Gen Z’s present has always been one marked by upheaval and rapid change — economic, social and technological — with their futures imperilled by big problems like global warming, international terrorism and resource scarcity. But as they contend with, and build upon, the legacies of past cohorts, they are also laying the foundations for their own.
16-year-old Farquan Mohamed says, "we are stuck in between this position where we are capable of making world change, but not taken seriously."
Perhaps more than any group before them, many experts feel these young people may have the power to grab hold of their elders and drag them (kicking and screaming, if necessary) into the future.
Gen Z is also unusually focused on finding meaning in their lives — and by extension, in their chosen careers. That, coupled with the fact that they’re simply better at managing their pocketbooks than their immediate predecessors, is setting them up to become a profoundly influential generation when it comes to both business and politics.
“They have a deeper connection to purpose, and meaning and wanting to make an impact in the world,” says Ilona Dougherty, managing director of the Youth and Innovation Project at the University of Waterloo.