In recent years, the notion that younger generations are reluctant to engage in traditional 9-5 jobs has risen. It’s believed by some that Gen Z are seeking flexibility and a work-life balance that aligns with their personal values and lifestyle.
However, a viral video by TikTok user @chailynt has recentered the conversation by addressing a more profound issue: the economic challenges faced by young individuals, even when holding down full-time jobs.
The frustrations of Gen Z
In her candid video, Chailyn, a Walmart employee, stated, “I cannot stand how the news has been dogging Gen Z and calling them lazy for not wanting to work 9-5 for the rest of their lives… I work five days out of the week, 40 hours a week. I [still] do not make enough to live on my own.”
She then highlighted the stark financial disparities that exist between her generation and previous ones.
“Twenty years ago, when you were getting started [with your career], you could live on your own. Twenty years ago when you first started, you were able to do everything that I am now struggling to do,” she said.
The video has struck a chord, amassing 6.2 million views, 1.4 million likes and more than 36,000 comments at the time of this writing.
Chailyn’s frustration is palpable as she voices the sentiments of Gen Z when confronting the criticisms often directed at her generation.
“You can sit here and call Gen Z lazy all you want, but I have been working my tail-end off just to barely make it by, and respectfully, I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” she said. “I don’t want to work my tail-end off, wasting all of my life working, just to barely be able to pay my bills.”
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Chailyn concluded her message with a pointed argument, shifting the blame to previous generations for the current state of the economy and the burden it places on Gen Z.
“You tell me how it got ruined. We can sit here and we can call Gen Z lazy all you want. But you let the economy turn into what it did.”
She added, “You let it all run to hell, and now it’s Gen Z’s ‘fault’ because we don’t want to work to fix your mistakes.”
The generation war
Chailyn’s assertion that older generations have allowed the economy to “run to hell” may seem somewhat harsh. However, she raises a valid concern by drawing attention to the significant changes in the economy over the past two decades; changes that have left the numbers stacked unfavorably against younger generations.
A prime example is the transformation in the housing market. The surge in real estate prices have created a landscape vastly different from what previous generations encountered.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau underscores this trend: the median sales price of houses sold in America went from $191,900 in Q3 of 2003 to $431,000 in Q3 of 2023, marking a staggering 125% increase over 20 years.
Wages have seen growth during this period. Between 2002 and 2022, the median personal income in the U.S. rose from $22,120 to $40,480, according to Census Bureau [data (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEPAINUSA646N), which is an 83% increase. However, when juxtaposed with the housing price surge, this wage growth appears insufficient.
Consequently, today’s young adults, who are often starting their careers with modest salaries, are now finding themselves grappling with the challenges of uncovering affordable housing — a struggle that is emblematic of the broader economic hurdles they face. This struggle is intensified when also considering the escalating costs of other essentials such as food, health care, and education.
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