By Dr. Ken Danns
Millennials are those individuals who came of age around the turn of the 21st century. Some scholars have advanced that the millennial cohort consists of individuals born between 1982 and 2004. Guyanese Millennials are youths and the young adults of the society.
They comprise an estimated 220,000 or approximately 30 percent of Guyana’s population. They are the first generation to be born in a Guyana in transition from socialism to capitalism. As a consequence, Guyanese millennials are not “comrades” but Facebook friends; they are not the subjects of an authoritarian political state and its paramount leader, but rather followers of twitter and other social media.
These millennials have little more than academic awareness of the colonial struggles, the cooperative socialist republic, the era of nationalization and the era of divestment. Guyanese millennials now enjoy greater levels of political and other freedoms in the society than all previous generations. They are less racist, sexist, and homophobic and are far more open to and tolerant of ethnic diversity, intermarrying and miscegenation than earlier generations.
Guyanese millennials would rather not have to deal with politics and in fact are largely alienated from political parties and the government. The majority are politically unaffiliated. Yet, these millennials are a very socially-engaged and active generation. Most of them have a Facebook page or are dutifully enrolled in some other social media platform. Guyanese millennials are a net generation that live in a virtual world of contacts and caring even as they negotiate their own life’s realities.
They are what Time Magazine calls the “Me, me, me generation” that value their individuality and freedom, in a manner that exceeds preceding generations. These millennials use social media to feel relevant. Want their opinions to be heard. They seek validation of self by striving to attract virtual followers. Millennials externalize their private selves, sharing their personal lives in the global spheres in ways seldom done with their own families.
Guyanese millennials are a highly technological cohort having grown up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially networked world. They evince a great comfort level with and are addicted to electronic gadgets such cell phones, computers, tablets and readily embrace new and evolving technology in general.
They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention being constantly bombarded and made to feel relevant and wanted by the deluge of media platforms that compete for their attention. By the click of a mouse Guyanese millennials have the world at their fingertips.
Guyanese millennials have emerged in a country characterised by fundamental societal transformations and declining economic indices. Guyanese millennials have been bequeathed an uncertain environment characterised by quadruple of major societal disruptions.
First, there is economic disruption. The Guyana economy has experienced seemingly irreversible downturns in the sugar-one of its major pillars, looming in the horizon is the transformative onset of a promising oil industry to fill the economic void.
Second, there is the disruption of upward mobility and succession. Guyanese millennials are being faced with blocked opportunities for upward mobility as earlier generations retire and recycle themselves into plum positions and appointments.
As a generation millennial are finding that may be largely excluded from positions of leadership and governance in the society by the preceding baby boomers’ generation and Generation X. There is generational competition for positions of administrative and political leadership in the society that the Guyanese Baby Boomers generation are so far winning.
The disruption of upward mobility and succession has added to the environment of uncertainty facing Guyana millennials. Millennials are an instant gratification generation empowered by the technologies at their fingertips and the knowledge that the world is their oyster. Consequently, they are constantly looking for alternatives outside of Guyana.
Third, there is the disruption of outward migration. The millennial generation is increasingly likely to migrate from their communities and from their country in search of opportunities overseas. Ninety three percent of the tertiary educated in Guyana have so far migrated making Guyana the migration capital of the Latin America and Caribbean region and the world. In its 2018 Labour Force Survey, the Guyana Bureau of Statistics found that less than ten percent of the Guyana population have completed any education higher than secondary.
The private sector in Guyana has identified “an inadequately educated workforce as the main obstacle to business ahead of other factors such as crime, corruption, electricity and taxes. The labour Force Survey Report stated that “The findings have two implications: on the one hand it entails a shortage of highly qualified human resources in the labour market.
On the other it indirectly confirms the seriousness of the issue of outmigration of tertiary educated people, which may explain the relatively low educational profile and skills portfolio of the economically active population.” Millennials, many of whom are currently in tertiary institutions, are poised to migrate and to continue the brain drain unless suitable jobs can be found or attractive entrepreneurial paths can be shown.
Fourth, there is the disruption of politics and governance. Millennials have been witnesses to widespread corruption and the failure of good governance in the society and are disillusioned by and fed up with these. It bothers them greatly that things aren’t getting done swiftly and adequately to improve and develop the society. They are seemingly not a generation that gravitates readily to protests, social movements and revolution. Instead, they go about their lives seeking to earn a living and to vote if in their judgment it can make a difference.
Though they exist in an uncertain societal climate besieged with transformative changes, Guyanese millennials are not a hopeless generation. Change is their “jam” and they are comfortable with it. They might be disillusioned with the way things are, but they have come to expect changes in their country and may be better at dealing with its gushing constancy than their parents.
These changes include a soon to be oil dominated economy coupled with significant influx of migrants from other countries that would immutably broaden the ethnic composition of the society. Already Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese are being spoken in many communities across Guyana, a Caribbean country in which English will very likely no longer be the only language widely spoken.