Are Gen Z cohort being sidelined by authorities?

If the trend of importing foreign workers continues at the current pace, they will start taking over higher-level jobs and edge out Maltese Gen Zs


Generation Z in Malta, born between 1997 and 2012, has grown up in an exciting era, which has influenced their work and learning opportunities. Here's a comparison of the Millennia and Gen Z in terms of these opportunities. Millennials experienced the transition from analogue to digital technology.

They witnessed the rise of the internet, social media, and smartphones during their formative years or early adulthood. In Malta, many Millennials entered the job market during the last recession (2009-2012) or its aftermath, which affected their career trajectories and earning potential. To be fair, in Malta, Millennials are among the most educated generations, with a significant number holding college degrees.  As can be expected, they have been instrumental in pushing for work-life balance, flexible work hours, and the ability to work remotely, trends that have become more mainstream over time.  This also benefited Gen Z as a group.  

Gen Z has grown up entirely in the digital age, with intuitive knowledge of the internet, social media, and mobile technology. They are considered true digital natives.  In Malta, the past decade saw improved job opportunities and mobility among workers. Gen Z is entering the workforce during a time of economic recovery and inflation but also faces the economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Like Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), Gen Z place a high value on education.  

However, they are also more sceptical about the value of traditional higher education and are more open to alternative learning paths, such as online courses and self-directed learning.  Surveys show that, regrettably, 70% of Gen Z wish to leave Malta and find better pastures abroad.  Locally, one can assess how Millennials have adapted to new technology as it emerged, while Gen Z has never known a world without it, making them even more tech-savvy and reliant on digital communication.  

Studies show how both generations seek flexibility and meaningful work, but Gen Z may place even more emphasis on these aspects, along with diversity, inclusivity, and social responsibility in the workplace.  Hence, Gen Z has high ambitions and expects more from current local job opportunities, conscious of the high cost of accommodation and the long servitude of 30 years to redeem house bank loans based on current salary scales. Visiting studies in Europe, we note that among Gen Z, juvenile crime and anti-social behaviour have dropped. Teenagers are also having less sex, especially of the procreative kind.

In 1991, 54% of American teenagers in grades nine to 12 (ages 14-18) reported that they were sexually experienced, and 19% claimed to have had sex with at least four partners.  In 2015, those proportions were 41% and 12%. So, is the solution a partial ban on the use of smartphones? The idea of limiting or giving up access to smartphones and social media is a topic of ongoing debate. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are arguments both for and against such measures, especially when considering their impact on Generation Z.

Castille may sustain that reducing screen time can encourage individuals to engage in other activities, such as physical exercise, reading, or spending quality time with family and friends, which can enhance overall well-being.  It has been scientifically tested that blue light emitted by screens can disrupt sleep patterns. Limiting use, especially before bedtime, can lead to better sleep quality.

In Malta, as the voting age was lowered last year to include sixteen-year-olds so, all political parties rightly place a lot of importance and care on how Gen Z are treated.  Castille may wish to be seen as compromising on the true solution. In an age where AI is seen as challenging all walks of life, it is imperative that our Gen Zs be better acquainted with STEM subjects at school and related technology.  Encouraging digital literacy, including education on the responsible use of technology, and fostering the ecology can be more effective than imposing strict limitations.  It's also important to recognize that technology is deeply integrated into modern life, and learning to coexist with it in a healthy way is a valuable skill.

A group in the UK called the Smartphone-Free Childhood has more than 60,000 followers debating how to keep their children away from the demon devices.  Last month, we noted how the state of Florida passed a law banning social media for under-14s.  Britain’s government is reportedly considering a ban on mobile phone sales to those under 16s. Two months ago, Daisy Greenwell and Clare Fernyhough set up a WhatsApp group to discuss how to stave off their young children’s demands for smartphones.  

After they posted about their plans on Instagram, other parents joined. Smartphones and social media can be tarnished with a broad brush as the chief villains.  Smartphones are so alluring that they reduce interest in all other activities. Back home, the public sector holds on to most of its employees, even though they complain about staff turnover. However, by contrast, there are a number of private-sector employers who are happy to hang on to their employees for at least 12 months.

 Some employers would tell you that they consider staff turn­over a positive thing as it brings fresh blood. However, due to staff shortage, others see it as a curse as they lose people whom they would have trained.  Is there a magic number employers should be aiming for to ensure staff turnover levels are healthy? In Malta, as stated earlier, Gen Z has never experienced an economic recession, with the exception of the COVID years, and even that was a subdued recession.  In conclusion, the increasing number of imported non-Maltese workers has not escaped the sight of Gen Z.  They observe low-level jobs being taken up by non-Maltese workers because they are paid low wages. 

If the trend of importing foreign workers continues at the current pace, they will start taking over higher-level jobs and edge out Maltese Gen Zs.

Can Castille lower its binoculars to sharply focus on the merits and well-being of the Gen Z generation? 

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