What enduring changes do young people between the ages of 20 and 30 foresee after the COVID-19 pandemic, and what would Millennials and Generation Z do differently if they were in charge? This question was posed at the launch of the Davos Lab initiative in January 2021 during the World Economic Forum Davos Agenda Week. To answer this question, the Davos Lab conducted surveys and dialogues on 10 key issues, referred to as the 10 pillars in this report, that are most likely to shape the life and outcomes of a child born during the pandemic.
One result of the pandemic is a far more organized generation of young voters, consumers and investors who are rallying behind urgent climate, fiscal and social justice. Without a doubt, this generation poses an existential risk to institutions that seek to simply revert to business as usual. However, it also represents a massive opportunity for governments and businesses in search of a progressive mandate.
In just three months, the Global Shapers Community organized virtual dialogues and surveys around the world. These local dialogues spanned the gamut from exclusive dialogues with undocumented migrants to public forums involving heads of states and public figures. This report is based on 344 dialogues held in 146 cities and on approximately 19,000 responses to the Davos Lab Survey conducted in 187 countries. The total reach of this work amounts to over 2.3 million people. Through these dialogues and the survey, young people shared their views, ideas and fears, which are summarized in this report as a set of actionable insights and recommendations for key decision-makers.
Regarding jobs, almost half of the young people surveyed said they feel inadequately skilled, and close to a quarter responded they would risk falling into debt if faced with an unexpected medical expense. Labour market fragility, compounded by an almost bankrupt social security system, is pushing more young people to rally behind a global wealth tax to help finance more resilient safety nets and to manage the alarming surge in wealth inequality.
On the climate front, young people stated they would like to halt all new coal, oil and gas exploration and development immediately to limit global warming to 1.5°C, a level beyond which devastating climate impacts could spiral out of control. They call on financial institutions to avoid bankrolling or underwriting companies that seek to start new fossil fuel exploration and development, and on firms to actively replace corporate board directors who are unwilling to wind down fossil fuels or transition to cleaner energy sources.