Thinking about patterns in the Millennial generation—our future leaders, they share a deep distrust of institutions like government and religious institutions. They’re concerned about poverty, the environment, and war. They want to support their parents and their country. There’s also optimism about the future and spirituality, a belief in higher power. This is a generation electronically connected to friends, music, and news via portable devices. They think of themselves as global citizens[i]—at least that’s true of urban youth, not the villagers. It’s an impatient generation—even hyper, that expects to be entertained, often communicating three different ways at once (“perhaps even five or eight at times,” added Krishna, a young man in India). Another characteristic is accepting more equality for girls and women and for people of different castes and classes.
Milllenials are the largest group of youth and the best educated in history–1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2007, 18% of the world’s population. The countries with the most kids are India, China, and Indonesia (Indonesia has 245 million people).[i] One and a half billion young children (86%) live in developing countries, making up about half the population. The “youth bulge” is found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and some South American countries. This bulge increases the cost of education and competition for jobs. In contrast, the elderly are the largest population group in Europe, North America, and Oceania where workers are needed to fund social welfare programs for the aging people.
Most developing countries in the news have a large youth population. In Afghanistan, 60% of the population is under 21. The mean age is 17, hence the popularity of a TV talent show called Afghan Star (a documentary film of the same name tells us about the show, which includes female performers—one of whom gets death threats for dancing sedately on stage while singing). In another hot spot, more than half the population of Gaza is under 18.
Youth make waves. In Iran, youth 29 and younger make up 70% of the population and played a big part in the “green revolution” demonstrations protesting voter fraud in the 2009 elections, including women in chadors or head scarves. One in 20 Iranians is a student and women are almost two-thirds of university students. Young techies around the world helped keep Iranian protesters communicating on the Internet through sites like Twitter with proxy servers when the government tried to shut them down and then with special “Haystack” code developed by a 24-year-old California man when the government shut down the proxy servers.[ii] Student protests continued into 2010, using the Internet to organize demonstrations, chanting slogans like “Khomeini knows his time is up!” and “Death to the dictator” and holding flags without the Allah symbol added after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Khomeini is considered God’s voice to Iran, like the Pope to Catholics, so it’s revolutionary to criticize him. Cell phones enabled “citizen journalism” that kept the protests in the public eye after journalists were expelled from Iran.
[i] Percentages of the population under 25 in some large countries: India, 52%, Mexico 49%, Brazil 47%, and China 38%.[i] In 2006, 16% of the population was under 15-years-old in Europe, 20% in North America, 29% in Asia, 30% in Latin America and the Caribbean and 42% in Africa. Population Reference Bureau, 2006.
[i] In a survey of 2,000 Arab youth in 2009, with seven out of ten respondents interviewed in nine nations describing the concept of global citizenship–the shared feeling of identity regardless of ethnic, religious or national background–as either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very important’. This included a majority of youth in every country surveyed except Oman. Second Annual ASDA‘A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, 2010.