Debunked: Three Things about Young Malaysians

There have been many misperceptions about the youth. We can talk about it all day. The Gen Y label is hardly flattering especially when that generation is often described as impatient, entitled and rebellious.

But a recently released study, called Youth Perspectives, seeks to debunk some of these common perceptions. The study, conducted via questionnaires and focus groups, focused on three areas: media consumption, purchasing behaviour as well as career and talent.

The study polled over 2,000 Malaysian undergraduates and Form 6 students, mostly aged between 19 to 23 years old, all over Malaysia. This is a project by public relations firm Perspective Strategies along with their sponsors and partners AIA Bhd, Nippon Paint, consulting firm Centre for Strategic Engagement (Cense) and youth development organisation Aiesec.

Here are three key findings that could very well challenge what people thought they knew about the youth (see accompanying infographic below for more details).

1. Parents are still a key influence in youth’s career and purchasing decisions

Young Malaysians may not be as independently-minded as some may think.

Youth Perspectives found that 62.3% of respondents consult their parents before deciding on what career to pursue and parental consent is a key factor. Additionally, 66.8% say they prefer getting a job through referrals.

In his presentation on the survey, Perspective Strategies’ managing director Andy See says that this could be because parents of the Gen Ys are likely to be more opinionated and educated.

Shazmi Ali, Pfizer Malaysia’s director of human resource, has this caution for parents: “If you are giving your child career advice, make sure it’s current. Don’t give them advice that applied 20 years ago”.

Aside from parents, friends and family opinions matter too.

According to the study’s results, about 80.6% ask friends for reviews and 77% consult their families before deciding on a purchase.

Only 35% of respondents say they are influenced by reviews on social media and a mere 16.8% say they have bought something that was endorsed by a celebrity.

2. Young Malaysians spend a lot of time online but they do not trust everything they see

In line with other similar surveys, Youth Perspectives found that one in two youths (53.5%) spend at least five hours a day online. But the Internet for them is nothing more than just a platform for them to stay in touch with friends and get latest updates.

“They are online a lot but they do realise that things on social media are not the gospel truth. They verify and try to ask friends and family for opinions,” says See.

Only 9.2% of the survey’s respondents say they “trust” or are “very trusting” of information posted on social media. Conversely, 72.8% of youths polled gave the highest trust ratings to their parents or relatives.

3. Many soon-to-be graduates surveyed feel that they are ill-equipped for the workforce

At work, Gen Ys have a bad reputation. They have been called spoilt, lazy, impatient and having an inflated sense of their abilities.

Shazmi weighs in on this with a contrarian view. “Whatever the Gen Ys want, we want too. It’s just that they dare to ask. When we started work, if we were offered flexible working hours, a faster career path or input on decision-making, we’d want it too.”

Many of them are entering the workforce with worries weighing on their minds and not an inflated sense of their abilities as some may allege.

The top six career challenges the young respondents cite are: lack of working experience (64.5%); poor English language proficiency (42.5%); poor soft skills (41.2%); poor technical skills (37.7%); not relevant to current degree/major (27.9%) and poor Chinese language proficiency (27.7%).

Interestingly, a whopping 70.4% want to move to another country for work. They are driven mostly by political and social reasons (45.2%); opportunities not available in Malaysia (43.6%) and poor career prospects in the country (42.1%).

At the end of the day, what does this mean for organisations?

Youth Perspectives outlines five messages:

1.       Meet your new employees. Yes, and their parents too!

2.       Salary and benefits attracts talent but what retains them is a compelling corporate culture.

3.       Reputation is more credible when information is conveyed by trusted third parties.

4.       Messages need to be consistent. You have to sing the same song across all platforms.

5.       Activate and engage meaningfully.

Source:; 08 July 2015

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youth-persepctive-Q1 2015

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