February 4, 2016    4 minute read

Are Millennials the Answer to Puerto Rico’s Future?

   February 4, 2016    4 minute read

Are Millennials the Answer to Puerto Rico’s Future?

Most of us Millennials have grown up immersed in a world where innovation has levelled the playing field – a world of rapid technological and societal changes which have given our generation a set of priorities and expectations that vary significantly from those of prior generations.

At the same time, we have grown in a turbulent job market which has greatly affected our parents’ careers as well as our own. After all, Millennials were raised under the prosperity and relative peace that characterised the 1990s only to see their world dashed by the September 11th attacks, the Iraq war and two economic crashes, in 2000 and 2008.

Their view of life changed from that of previous generations because the world itself had changed; now perceived smaller and more interconnected thanks to social media and other technological advances.

A recent study performed by The Center for Generational Kinetics found that Millennials “naturally challenge the status quo” at work more than any other generation.

“They have little experience and are comfortable sharing their opinions on what is not working or what could be better. Cross-generation teams that include Millennials can have a strong positive impact on innovation.”

Millennials have grown accustomed to looking ahead; they believe in making a positive contribution to their local communities and they are willing to collaborate with other organisations to create new ideas and offer better solutions to current issues, according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey. The same mindset could be applied to countries and governmental bodies.

Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States, has been extensively covered in the media recently regarding the government’s likely default on its US$ 72 billion public debt. Economists and analysts have raised various concerns regarding the stability of banking institutions, social enterprises, and educational facilities. On September 2015, the Commonwealth released a five-year recovery plan that said even significant spending cuts would leave the island billions of dollars short of the amount required to pay bondholders in the next five years. On January 1st, the Commonwealth neglected approximately US $37 million in payments which attracted the eye of numerous bond insurers.

Furthermore, the possibility of a partial government shutdown, which could affect the availability of essential services, is foreseen in the near future if no additional liquidity measures are undertaken.

As the island’s economy continues to struggle with high unemployment rates and declining population, students and young and established professionals are equally concerned about their job prospects as many of them have looked into leaving the island in search of a better lifestyle and employment opportunities.

Today, 60% of Puerto Ricans live in the United States and 40% on the island according to a 2014 Pew report. Also, it is likely that by 2020, two-thirds of Puerto Ricans will reside in the United States.

Nevertheless, younger generations are responsible for facing these challenges in the form of adapting themselves to thrive in their respective environments. Often, they go beyond adaptation and offer their views on how to make the country move forward. Various Millennial-led NGOs and Not-for-profits have entered into the scene with the main purpose of enhancing Puerto Rico’s economic development through innovative thinking and micro-actions as well as entrepreneurship.

Millennials have the ability to envision a better future and know how to achieve it. They talk in terms of disruptive innovation, shared economy, equitable growth, sustainable supply chains, clean energy access and integrated services all the while encouraging values such as inclusiveness, transparency and equality.

Millennials have been raised in a racially and ethnically diverse environment, and this view of life has translated into matters of public policy. Same-sex marriage, for example, has gone from a controversial political issue to a constitutional right recognised by courts and governmental institutions in many countries, including Puerto Rico.

But Millennials also have their faults. For instance, they can often be impatient, inattentive and most of them lack the necessary experience despite their desire to drive change. Millennials also come across as entitled and narcissistic as some studies have found that they are more focused on materialistic values and expect instant gratification for their efforts. But is this an impediment to achieving transformation? There are over 2.5 billion Millennials worldwide which accounts for an abundance of talent to offer. With genuine opportunities, open communication channels and proper guidance, Millennials can surely make meaningful contributions for the benefit of their countries and workplaces.

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