Most millennials will never retire - Different expectations for work

30.10.2017

Most millennials will never retire - Different expectations for work

The majority of millennials won’t probably ever retire, and they’ll find the whole concept of everyone stopping working at a certain age to be out-of-date. There are two reasons for this, though, none of the two is the pretense that developed economies couldn’t sustain pension schemes. The first reason is, millennials’ expectations for work is different than the ones of the previous generations and will be discussed in this article. The second reason will be discussed in "Most millennials will never retire - The nature of work will change", which will be published next week.

Millennials have different expectations for work
For years there has been debate about whether or not developed economies can afford having the kind of pension schemes for millennials that the previous generations have built for themselves. The short answer to this is probably “No, not with the current sort of politicians in power”, but stating the obvious misses the whole point of reflecting whether contemporary pension schemes will be needed in the first place. The current retirement ages in the EU vary between 58 and 67 years of age and they are expected to rise to 61-72 years of age by 2050. The numbers seem high at first, but to put them in perspective you need to know what the people subject to these retirement ages expect from their work.

The 2016 Deloitte Millenial Survey presents many insights that allow drawing a hypothesis about why pension schemes could, if not become completely irrelevant, at least be significantly changed from their current forms. Millennials think that values that support business success in the long term are people treatment, ethics and focus on customers. Interestingly, only 5% of the millennials considered profit-focused values to ensure long-term business success. When excluding salary and other financial benefits, millennials answered that the four most important reasons for choosing to work for an organisation are good work/life balance, opportunities to progress/be leaders, flexibility (remote working, flexible hours), and the sense of meaning from your work. Furthermore, 77% of the respondents consider themselves being in control of their career paths.

The hypothesis Deloitte’s insights let us draw is that millennials don’t work only for making a living, but largely because they enjoy what they do and what they’re good at, and they believe in the organisation and its positive impact on its customers. If this was the case, why would millennials stop working just because they hit a certain age? The idea is absurd, especially when taking into account the nature of work in the future!

Luckily, we don’t have to wait until the first millennials reach the retiring age to validate this hypothesis. It’s enough to have a look at political leaders, senior executives and members of the boards of directors of large enterprises, musicians, actors, authors etc. Many of them have passed whatever the retiring age in their countries is, they could afford to stop working and still they continue without plans to retire. They continue because they love what they do and they have a call for it. Maestro Ennio Morricone is the embodiment of this. For the past 60 years he has composed music and still continues doing so at the age of 88 without any signs of stopping. Contrarily, he started concert tours in 2001 (at the age of 73) with a symphony orchestra and polyphonic choir and continues also touring still today!

My conclusion is that in the future decades it isn’t reasonable to expect people to stop doing what they enjoy just because they turn a certain age. The question is then whether it is realistic to expect every millennial to be physically and mentally fit to continue working at high ages. To be able to answer this, you need to know what the future work will be like.

Written by: Janne Borro

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