For early Generation Z (Gen Z) workers that went to college, they have now officially finished their first few years in the workforce. Others, forgoing college, have already been employed for more than a few years. This generation is set to make up 20 percent of the workforce by 2020 and though the data is still developing for this generation, we know they are already doing two things: working less and differently.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed employment projection results for Gen Z and older workers (age 64 and above). For the older workers, labor force participation rate is expected to increase to 25.2 percent by 2028. In contrast, the labor force participation rate for those 16-24-years-old will decline to 11.5 percent through 2028.
Reports show that older workers are now more likely to take vacant jobs, stay in positions longer and fill roles historically held by younger workers. Gen Z, on the other hand, appears to be slightly behind their predecessors to jump into the working world.
“I didn’t want to work after high school. I worked hard and I felt I needed a brain break,” said Treyvian Tharp, a Milwaukee native who currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “I had options and I spoke to my mom about how I felt. We agreed that I would sit out for a year and apply for college after that.”
According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z entered adulthood with less experience in the labor market than prior generations. Today, only 58 percent of today’s 18-21-year-olds worked in the prior calendar year compared to 72 percent of Millennials when they were of similar age. Although it appears that this age group is working less, that may not be true.
According to the Freelancing in America report by Upwork, Gen Z is working, albeit in a less traditional way. The report revealed that 53 percent of workers ages 18-22 freelance. That is the highest freelance rate of any age bracket since the origin of the report.
Tharp liked the option of freelancing too. “I delayed starting (college) for a year after graduation. I didn’t think I was ready yet,” said Tharp. He is currently attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for his first year. “I wanted to make sure I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to waste time by switching majors two-three years in. I made a little extra money freelancing while I was at home and I was able to use that money to pay for a lot of things I needed for school.”
He chose to freelance instead of applying for a full or part-time job. Tharp felt that traditional employment would curve his desire to go to college. Instead, he freelanced and honed his craft in preparation for his major — graphic design.
Tharp's reason for freelancing was to ensure he was going into the right profession (major) at the right time in his life. This may be a different approach than others take, but can also indicate that greater employment flexibility is a strong driver for this generation.
The Workplace Burnout survey by Deloitte revealed that 74 percent of people who manage Gen Z have team members who work remotely. By 2028, 73 percent of all teams are expected to have employees that work from home. The makeup of the workforce is shifting as newer generations define telecommuting as a necessity instead of a bonus.
Gen Z is cautiously entering college and tiptoeing into the workforce. The opportunity to work for themselves is not foreign and is less scary compared to the sentiment of prior generations. Gen Z is comfortable being entrepreneurs, freelancers and working alone. Ultimately, Gen Z may very likely delay entering the traditional workforce until it is the right job and right time, for them.