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Business leaders networking at the Peach 20/20 Conference  

03 Jul 2024

When the young start calling the shots

By Peter Martin
A Labour victory in the coming General Election will mark a major shift in British politics - and in a way that many people have perhaps yet to anticipate.

It will mark an important generational switch that is likely to influence Government policy for years to come - and by inference business.

Once social class was the main determinant of how people were likely to vote. Now it’s age.

Speaking to Tom Johnson, managing director of Trajectory, the influential insights agency, which has produced a fascinating report called Millennial Nation, he pointed out that Millennials, the generation now aged 28 to 43, were on the verge of displacing Baby Boomers, the 60 to 78 year-olds, as the largest demographic cohort in the UK by number.

More pertinently, Millennials, along with the under 28s (or Gen Z), will largely vote for Labour. 

Even at the last election, while 64% of over 65s cast their vote for the winning side, the Conservatives, only 27% of 25-to-34s and a mere 19% of 18-to-24s backed the winning party. It looks like being very different this time around. 

As Tom Johnson observes: “When that [a Labour victory] happens, it will be the first time since they came of age that Millennials have made their voices heard at the ballot box. So, for better or worse, the Millennials are taking over.”

When it comes to policy making, it’s natural for political parties to focus on the needs of their core voters. For the Tories it’s been older people. Labour can be expected to do the same, but this time the spotlight will shift to the aspirations and concerns of Millennials first and then Gen Z. It’s about keeping your base onside.

For the older end of that demographic, children, mortgages, rent and jobs are going to be major concerns. For the younger end, climate change, the sustainability agenda, housing, student loans and mental well-being kick in.

For the hospitality sector, it means that Government policy should also be more focused on measures designed to benefit the bulk of its customer base as well as its front-line teams. Within that there’s likely to be both good and bad news for business - but the shift will be towards the young, or at least younger parts of society.

We already know that younger staff want more flexibility at work and for their employers to be more proactive in green issues. Those areas are only likely to become more entrenched, not less - and even backed up by legislation.

When it comes to consumers, recent CGA data shows the under 35s are the ones more likely to be spending more on going-out, despite the cost-of-living crunch, and more importantly they make-up over half of those that are going out to eat and drink more often.

One important take-away from the Trajectory report, with implications wider than just politics, is that the young adult ‘pre-family’ lifestage is expanding. People spend more time in a phase of life before having children, marrying or buying property. At the same time, the family/parental lifestage is shrinking. People are having children later, and generally fewer children overall.

But as Tom Johnson says there are limits to this generational shift, as “the economic centre of gravity isn’t going anywhere”. But there are nonetheless important implications for brands, businesses and policymakers as Millennials start calling the shots.

This article first appeared in MCA in June 2024.


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