Half of millennials and Gen Z living paycheque-to-paycheque in Canada while stressing about climate crisis: survey
Struggling under the rising cost of living and an ever mounting fear of the climate crisis, young Canadians don’t see a positive future for themselves right now, according to a recent national survey.
The survey, which interviewed 1,508 millennials and 1,507 Gen Z adults, found that half of young Canadians live paycheque-to-paycheque and that half also believe that we will see the environmental situation deteriorate in 2024.
One in ten young Canadians said they wouldn’t feel comfortable “bringing children into the world in a climate crisis.”
The results of Leger’s annual Youth Survey were laid out in a report published last week, painting a bleak picture of the life that young Canadians are experiencing and anticipating.
“The situation is getting worse with each passing year: Generation Z and millennials lack confidence in the future,” the report stated.
There was also a sharp divide reflected between the financial anxieties of homeowners versus those renting, with nearly three out of four renters stating that their rent takes up too much of their expenses while less than half of homeowners said the same about their mortgage payments.
Out of the 3,015 people surveyed, the majority were predominantly English-speakers (65 per cent), and 36 per cent belonged to a visible minority. The survey was carried out between July 25 and August 7.
Although the boundaries of different generations are sometimes disputed, the survey considers millennials to anyone born between 1981 and 1996, while Gen Z contains anyone born from 1997 onward.
FEAR OF AN UNLIVABLE PLANET AND AN UNVIABLE FUTURE
Climate anxiety was one of the recurring themes of the survey, with 60 per cent of participants stating that they were concerned about the impact of climate change, up from 53 per cent in 2022.
Women were more likely to be concerned about the environment than men, with 56 per cent of women answering that they believe the situation will get worse in the coming year, compared to just 43 per cent of men.
Around 67 per cent of respondents said they believe that major upheavals -- such as war, vast migrations of populations, natural disasters, etc. – are imminent. Only 15 per cent disagreed with that statement, with the remainder stating that they didn’t know.
More than half of young Canadians agreed with the statement that the generations preceding them are “directly responsible for climate change,” with 55 per cent of Gen Z agreeing compared to 50 per cent of millennials. Gen Z were more likely to be optimistic about new tactics for handling the climate crisis, with 57 per cent stating that they believe new technologies will allow us to “limit the effects of climate change,” compared to just 49 per cent of millennials who said the same.
The survey reflects a growing sense of powerlessness among the nation’s youth. While more than half of Canadians already reported feeling unable to help solve society’s problems in 2022, that percentage increased to 62 per cent in the 2023 survey. The increase was sharper among Gen Z.
When asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement “I’m confident that our generation will do what it takes to meet the challenges of our time,” respondents were split, with 40 per cent disagreeing and 41 per cent agreeing. The remaining respondents chose “I don’t know/I prefer not to answer.”
But when looking at the percent who said they were confident in their generation, the survey found that even though more Gen Z agreed with the statement compared to millennials, that agreement was weaker than the previous year, falling to 44 per cent compared to the 50 per cent who agreed in 2022.
Only 39 per cent of millennials said they were confident their generation could meet the challenges of our time, down four points from 2022.
When it came to mental health, more Gen Z adults stated that they had experienced anxiety in the past year compared to millennials, with 60 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. Only 17 per cent of respondents stated that they had never experienced anxiety.
There were glimmers of hope: 66 per cent of young Canadians agreed that they do feel “generally happy in life” and only 32 per cent said that they weren’t bothering to save for retirement because they couldn’t picture themselves achieving that in the future.
And although climate anxieties are higher than ever, it seems, the largest group of respondents said they disagreed with the idea that we aren’t capable of limiting the impacts of climate change. Around 45 per cent stated they disagreed, while 37 per cent said they agreed that we’re not capable, and 18 per cent said they didn’t know.
FINANCIAL STRAITS GETTING WORSE
In 2023, 51 per cent of young Canadians are living paycheque-to-paycheque, up from 48 per cent in 2022, the survey found.
And it’s worse for millennials than their younger counterparts: around 54 per cent of millennials stated that they live paycheck to paycheck, compared to 48 per cent of Gen Z.
More millennials consider their personal finances to be “in poor shape” compared to Gen Z, with 32 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. But young Canadians are trying to save – 71 per cent said they had at least one type of savings or investment currently, including tax-free savings accounts, stocks, real estate, virtual currencies and others.
Only 33 per cent of respondents said they weren’t afraid of running out of money.
The rising cost of living is pressing on young Canadians’ minds even more than last year: 48 per cent said they feel the added costs on the regular payment of their credit card or bills, compared to 40 per cent in 2022.
It also caused more young Canadians to change their spending habits across all categories, according to the survey.
The percent of respondents saying that they had changed their spending habits due to increased costs jumped up at least five points in every category compared to 2022.
Almost three out of four respondents said they were changing their habits in respect to saving money due to increases in the cost of living, and 68 per cent said they changed their food habits.
“For the vast majority of the items listed, women and respondents from English-speaking Canadian provinces are more likely to have changed their habits because of the rising cost of living,” the report stated.
THE WEALTH DIVIDE REFLECTED IN THE QUESTION OF HOMEOWNERSHIP
To assess the finances of young Canadians, a portion of the survey split them up by their living situation into homeowners, renters, or those still living with family.
There were 1,162 homeowners, 961 renters and 578 adults living with family included in the survey.
Renters overwhelmingly expressed more difficulty meeting their rent requirements than homeowners did meeting their mortgage requirements, underlining how different the financial considerations are of those who can afford homes and those who can’t.
Around 72 per cent of renters said their rent takes up too much of their expenses and 81 per cent said they’re renting because they’re “unable to buy property.” Another 67 per cent said they don’t think they’ll be able to buy property in the next few years, with 68 per cent of youth living with family stating the same.
One in four renters said they’d have to move because of a rent hike.
Meanwhile, 61 per cent of homeowners said their mortgage wasn’t too high compared to their salary, and 77 per cent said they have never needed help to pay their mortgage before.
Homeowners were far more likely to say they’re confident in their financial knowledge, at 67 per cent, compared to renters, at 48 per cent.
YOUNG CANADIANS PRIORITIZE SALARY IN EMPLOYMENT
The percentage of young Canadians planning to quit their job in the next year is slightly higher than last year, at 15 per cent compared to 2022’s 13 per cent, but is still far below the 25 per cent planning to quit in the 2021 survey.
The difference between millennial and Gen Z is stark here, with 22 per cent of Gen Z adults planning to quit in the next year compared to just 11 per cent of millennials.
Out of the 272 respondents who stated that they wanted to quit their job, 50 per cent said it was because they would like a salary increase.
One reasoning which saw a big change compared to last year was the complaint regarding flexibility in work hours. In this recent survey, 19 per cent of Gen Z respondents planning to quit their job said they didn’t have enough flexibility, down from 39 per cent of Gen Z respondents in 2022.
This iteration of Leger’s Youth Survey added a section which presented participants with hypothetical scenarios in order to figure out which aspects of a job offer were prized most highly by young Canadians in the job market.
Respondents were given a set of scenarios relating to salary, vacation hours, employee benefits, work hours, place or work and other miscellaneous work conditions, and were asked to select the combination they would be most likely to accept in a job offer.
The report stated that respondents placed the most importance on salary in their considerations, followed by employee benefits and vacation hours.
While flexible work hours and a four day work week were seen as a positive in a job offer, a five day work week was a negative that would need to be offset by benefits in other areas.
The survey also found that Gen Z were more likely to have used AI technologies to do job-related tasks or purchases in the past year compared to millennials.
The 3,015 participants, consisting of 1,508 millennials and 1,507 Gen Z members, were selected randomly through LEO, Leger’s online opinion panel.
A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample, Leger said. For comparison, a probability sample of 3,015 respondents yields a margin of error of +/- 1.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.