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Apr 4, 2013

There has been a lot written recently on Generation Y (or Millkennials) in the U.S, but today I’m focusing on Gen Y globally.

You may not realize it, but Gen Y actually exists in other countries. It is not unique to the U.S.

They may not be called Gen Y or Millennials in other places. They may not have the exact same birth year range. But they do exist.

You may think that the concept of Gen Y is all a bunch of “hooey,” but there are differences in how young people act, think and what they believe around the world.

What causes differences worldwide?

Generations are defined in each country by major historical events — social, cultural, political and economic — that occur in people’s formative years. Each of the following events had big impact on children/young people:

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall impacted young people in Germany.
  • The Cultural Revolution affected children in China. No academics were taught which had long-ranging impact on their lives.
  • The Vietnam War had a huge impact on young people in the U.S.
  • The Great Depression in the U.S. had a tremendous impact on the attitudes, beliefs, etc. of young people growing up in its aftermath.

Powerful events such as these shape how young people act and think from country to country. By understanding the differences, companies have a better chance to attract, retain and motivate them.

What are the differences?

The table below provides a good picture of how Gen Y are similar and different by country.PastedGraphic-1


China’s Gen Y were born between 1980 and 1989. China’s One-Child Policy, put in place in 1980, radically impacted the traditional family structure and resulted in a generation that grew up in a family environment of high expectations and minimal competition for attention.

In other words, as children they were spoiled.

Many Gen Y job hop for bigger salaries, more status, promotions and more opportunities. Promotions, typically every two years (employers’ attempt at retention), lead to shallow depth of skill at any given job level.

Job titles are often inflated and interviewers need to probe deeply in job interviews to understand what the candidate’s true skills are.


Since the economic decline beginning in 1990 and the death of the centuries-old “job for life,” the Yutori generation has grown up in a time of high economic anxiety unlike that of their parents’ generation. They have lived through massive layoffs in the 1990’s and again in 2008. The tradition of “life-time employment” and the “loyal corporation” have evaporated.

United Kingdom

Gen Y in the UK were born in the 1980s during the height of the United Kingdom’s economic boom. As a result, Gen Y there were spoiled on the good life. Since 2008, reality has come as a shock.


Beginning in 1983, the first truly post-Soviet generation to enter the workforce under the presidency of Vladimir Putin was the so-called “Generation Pu” — Russia’s Gen Y. “Generation Pu” were born from 1983 to 2000.


Gen Y account for roughly half the total workforce in Kenya. They are one of the least understood Gen Y segments of the workforce worldwide. They were born between 1990 and 2000.


Gen Y in Brazil are defined as individuals born between 1981 and 1995. Gen Y employees have high expectations of their employers’ CSR values.

They are known for a lack of employer loyalty. High inflation certainly doesn’t leave a lot of room for much optimism, which affects how Gen Y view their future.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Gen Y were born between 1980 and 1999. They grew up in times of social and economic stability. The oil-based economy funded Saudi Arabia’s extensive social welfare and benefits programs while the Saudization policy guaranteed employment for all Saudis.

Final thoughts

Hopefully you now have an idea of how attitudes, beliefs and work expectations differ by country.

In order to build effective talent management strategies, companies need to understand them. Because of these differences, one single global talent management strategy/program will not work.

To repeat a much used adage: “One size does not fit all.”

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