Commentary

What Do Asia's Millennials See Ahead?

Asia is a mosaic of many cultures, and each one has faced and overcome its own distinct challenges. Across the region, however, young Asians increasingly see that hard work and dedication can pay off in ways their parents never imagined. But more than ever before, they're also looking for innovation, creativity, individualism and enjoyment.

There are many salient qualities to Asian life and the lives of young Asians, in particular, that consumer brands entering this region need to know.

  • The global financial crisis has affected Asia, but not nearly to the extent felt in mature Western economies. In addition, many of these countries have demonstrated amazing resilience in recovering from epidemics, natural disasters and other setbacks -- not only in recent years, but throughout their long histories. This has created a sense of community and an ability to handle stress that Western young people don’t always display.
  • While Japan and Korea have the most mature economies in the region, the new “tiger economies” such as Indonesia, Thailand and China (although it is facing new challenges) are in a highly accelerated state of development. As the European and American middle classes continue to stagnate, young people in Asian cities are building and buying things their parents never dreamed of.
  • By 2020, 60% of all millennials will reside in Asia. And they’re gaining incredible buying power -- currently around USD 907 billion, equivalent to the combined GDP of Indonesia and the Philippines. By 2020, they will be the main driver of the APAC economy.
  • Many young Asians are better educated and have higher earning power than older generations. What used to be the American Dream -- a degree, a car, a house, kids and a dog -- is now the Pacific Dream.
  • Exposure to other cultures is fueling empowerment and a desire for self-expression among Asian youth. Especially in Tier 1 cities, Internet access and micro-blogging is feeding a sense of individualism that was culturally discouraged among their parents’ generation.
  • The stereotype of serious, studious, hard-working Asian youth is fading as millennials begin to crave more freedom to play and enjoy life. Like their Western counterparts, they are delaying marriage and changing jobs more often as they explore their options. And access to online learning is bringing rural and poorer youth options they never had before.
  • At the same time, Asian millennials are beginning to face employment pressures similar to their Western counterparts. The media in China have declared this to be “The hardest year in history to get a job.” The number of students with a job lined up after graduation is under 30 percent -- a record low.
  • Twenty years ago, Asian companies were staffing senior positions with imported talent. Today, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian and Philippine professionals are returning home with BAs, MBAs and experience earned in Western countries. Fluent in their native language and culture, these workers now have every advantage.

We are optimistic about Asia for brands -- and Asian millennials are as optimistic as they can be, although they share the cultural inheritance of knowing that life can change quickly. Brands that are sensitive to Asian mindsets and nimble in entering and executing in markets can benefit from opportunities here, right along with Asia’s millennials.

 

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