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Generation Z moves between political disillusionment and real hope of saving the planet. Are they individualistic and ultra-aware of their own power? Stewart Chau, Head of Political and Societal Studies at the polling organisation Viavoice, has made a close study of their ideals and details them in a book, La Fracture.

Your book, ‘La Fracture’, deconstructs the image of one uniform generation Z. Where are the divisions among them?

Young people do not make up one monolithic bloc. The divisions we are talking about are fairly traditional: the relationship of young people with the world varies considerably depending on the social milieu from which they come, their level of education and the setting in which they live (city or rural environment). One of the striking indicators is that of happiness. In 1968, 35% of young people said they felt very happy; today only 19% say they do. A gap of 16 points in an opinion poll is massive. We could see this as a global movement, yet when looked at in detail we observe intra-generational divisions: in 2021, 43% of young people from privileged backgrounds said they were happy, whereas only 13% of those from the working class said so.

Nevertheless, you find a lot of points in common. What are they?

First, in their relationship with work, where we have moved from a linear career path to one which I call ‘work experience’. Young people today look for a life experience in their work which they can later add value to in another company or profession. They regard 2 to 5 years as the ideal length of time to spend in a job. They no longer think in terms of a post but of assignments or missions they will capitalize on to then experience further tasks.

Are they more individualistic than their elders?

My view is that society encourages this myth of autonomy. Everyone is meant to be making their own choices, being mobile, following their own path. Our vocabulary is full of terms like ‘customer experience’, ‘patient experience’, written in the singular, all governed by algorithms with the purpose of ever more personalisation. This excess of autonomy therefore comes from their elders but it has influenced their relationship with others.

Yet social media work according to the idea of communities, or groups…

I don’t think social media are like groups at all. Everything about them invites you to talk about yourself in the first person. Even when they let you take part in a group project, young people will always say “I” am taking part and will portray it by telling an individual story.

What about their political engagement?

Their participation in politics as we have understood it is very low. Let me give you two figures: in 1968, 40% of 18-30-year-olds thought politics could contribute to the progress of Humanity; only 10% think so now. Similarly, 81% of them think that politicians are dishonest! By this they mean, not that they have done improper things, but that they are not sincere in their commitment. They demand that the conduct of an individual politician should be exemplary. Young people do not regard political organisations as having much legitimacy, their automatic default is to personalise, saying, “Who can speak in my name better than I can myself?”

What about their fighting for the climate or against injustice?

Their commitment in these areas is without equal. One young person in five says they are prepared to risk their life to protect the planet! But the settings in which they are mobilised are no longer the family, like in the 1960s, nor politics (at all), but social networks, the media and business.


They see business, unlike politics, as capable of providing solutions to the world’s problems if it wishes to do so. In this sense, we are dealing with a very pro-business and very pragmatic generation. This phenomenon highlights another trend: the search to reconcile private life and professional life. Work is viewed as the place where you fulfil your potential and commitment. Everywhere people’s private life is immersed in the life of the company; there is no longer “time for everything” but, in fact, everything at the same time. Flexible, nomadic working, etc. All these trends promote a good work-life balance.

What kind of managers will they be?

Authoritarian? Caring? It’s a good question… I would really like to know. 



La Fracture, Stewart Chau and Frédéric Dabi, Les Arènes, 2021

Based on five major opinion polls undertaken by Ifop between 1950 and today, La Fracture analyses the evolution of the aspirations, struggles and ideals of the 18-30 age group. It paints a portrait of a generation Z that is both tolerant and intransigent, and much more complex than it might appear.


Read more about “The generation Z : What are its dreams ?”

The generation Z : What are its dreams ? #1 Our Director of the Talent & Career Department answers – NEOMA (neoma-bs.com)

The generation Z : What are its dreams ?#2 The 4 major aspirations of this youth – NEOMA (neoma-bs.com)