Let’s face it: when it comes to their participation in government, the millennial generation has a bad rap. There are countless articles debating whether the generation has any interest in public service. Similarly, older generations have expressed concern that a “millennial government takeover” is afoot due to the growing importance of technology in government. But how many of these judgments are misconceptions and how many are based in fact?
In this post, we’ll shed some light on three myths about millennials and government.
#1 Millennials aren’t applying to public sector jobs.
The number of government employees under 30 years old is now 7 percent, which is the lowest it’s been in 10 years. The vast majority of millennials seek jobs that allow them to make a positive social impact, so why is there so little generational representation in the public sector?
The reason for the discrepancy is that millennials have different job preferences than older generations, which results in a preference for the private sector. While older generations seek stability, consistency and a clear path of advancement in their work, millennials want to employ their knowledge of new technology and to be trusted with a decent amount of responsibility-both of which are not common in most entry-level government jobs.
Unfortunately, a lot of government agencies have yet to change their technology and recruiting tactics to be compatible with millennial job candidates. For instance, 73 percent of millennials found a job using some form of social media, which a lot of agencies, state and local especially, have yet to utilize.
However, millennial representation in the public sector is expected to increase with the introduction of new agency technology as well as anticipated changes to government work-culture.
#2 Millennials are less interested in government.
A lot of misconceptions about millennials and government stem from a lack of understanding of government patterns among younger generations. About a quarter of millennials say that politics and government are one of their top interests which is a lower percentage than genXers and boomers. But historically, a lower interest in public-sector news is typical of the youngest generations.
At the same time, millennials engage with government differently than other generations, which can cause some to assume that they are not engaged at all. For instance, the generation receives a lot of its information about government from Facebook and Twitter instead of the local news. Interest in social media and digital communication means that millennials are particularly good at engaging the public in conversations about government and can easily create and lead large, national movements to enact change.
Unfortunately, millennials are often disengaged with their state and local governments, but this has also been consistent across all younger generations. While millennial voter engagement is low, they are generally more optimistic about the future of government than older generations and have less anger toward the system. Sixty-three percent of millennials think that they can make a difference in government by participating in politics compared to genX and boomers.
#3 Millennials will take over government in a few years.
As of 2016, millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. IT modernization is taking government by storm causing government agencies to seek out employees/public servants that are well versed in the latest tech trends. With these recent developments, some people are concerned that there will be a “millennial takeover” of government, which they fear would result in increased knowledge of new technology, but a lax outlook on cybersecurity.
The truth is that millennials won’t take over the public sector any time soon. GenXers and boomers still make up the majority of the public-sector workforce. Additionally, the government needs the institutional knowledge of older generations to continue to function efficiently and to make older, legacy technology compatible with new tech.
However, government is expecting to see a surge in the number of millennials employees when millennials make up 75 percent of the workforce in 2020. This holds especially true as government interest in new technology increases.
Hopefully we’ve cleared up a few misconceptions about the millennial generation and their place in government. Ideally, the public sector will find a way to incorporate the strengths of all working generations to create a higher functioning and modern government.