Pulp and Paper Canada

Age Demographics:

April 1, 2001  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Much has been said about age demographics and in particular the effects of the leading edge Baby Boomer group on everything from spending, values, habits, idiosyncrasies….and their progeny. It has b…

Much has been said about age demographics and in particular the effects of the leading edge Baby Boomer group on everything from spending, values, habits, idiosyncrasies….and their progeny. It has been said that most things can be explained by [age] demographics, and it is worth examining the values of the different demographic segments for their attitudes to work, play, social issues, leisure time use, money, media; issues where the use of paper is in some way embedded.

Definitions and profiles for the four essential generations are summarized in Table I (from “Generations at Work” by Zemke, Raines, and Flipczak). While generations are not infallible guides to values and behaviour, they provide a framework for work-place management in such issues as conflict resolution, motivation, rewards, team building. This study is confined to interviews in the US work force and may vary slightly when applied to other cultures.


Of particular interest are the views that each generation has of the other three, Table II. The value of these insights is in evaluating the “cross-generation-friendliness” of your organization. Tools are provided in the book for such an evaluation.

In the work place, the Gen X’ers defining-events experience (see also Manager’s Pocket Guide to Generation X by Tulgan) makes them wary, rather than perhaps being perceived as disloyal; they do not buy into the old workplace bargain of loyalty in exchange for security. Instead X’ers have invested in themselves. They are intensely self-confident but not arrogant; they are able to assimilate information from simultaneous sources, preferring electronic rather than print sources. However, inherent insecurity gives rise to a need for constant feedback and a preference for working in a way that produces tangible results each day.

Perhaps the most interesting demographic concerning the issue of future paper use is the Nexter or Net Generation or Echo-boomers. They are well informed, media-savvy and have a huge purchasing power influence. They display a strong work ethic, are entrepreneurial and understand the new digital economy. Most interestingly they hold strong ethical values and do not appear to be a group of self-indulgent, irresponsible consumers. The “Net Generation” represents a potentially more powerful and influential cohort than any previous generation (Alch, The Futurist).

Why is this important?

It is too easy to assume that people everywhere interpret history, perceive today’s world and define desirable futures in the same terms. As different generations share a household or a workplace, coexisting cultures can evolve in peace only if they acknowledge and respect the fact that each of them has very different views of the past, the present, and the future. The Nexters are particularly important for they will hold the key for the long-term use-patterns for paper and wood products. They are now entering the work force and it is important to appreciate their value-systems. Question to ponder: What will be the values for the next generation, the New-Millenniums? They will know nothing else but a fast-paced world of convergence, instant information and seemingly impossible technological achievements. They will likely be more in sync with the social reform agenda of the Nexters, than the excesses of prior generations. Next up: a closer look at this Nexter Group.

Alan R. Procter can be reached at futureviews@alanprocter.com. For more information, visit www.futureviews.net

Generation The Veterans The Baby Boomers The Generation X’ers The Nexters
[1922-1943] [1943-1960] [1960- 1980] [1980-2000]
Aka Seniors Boomers Baby Busters Gen Y’s

US population

in millions 52 73 70 70
Defining events WW II, families, Prosperity, TV, Single-parent, AIDS, Computers, violence,
labor unions Cold War faltering institutions multiculturism
Visible members George Bush Oprah Winfrey Brad Pitt Chelsea Clinton
John Glenn Bill Gates Michael Dell Macauley Culkin
Core values Dedication Optimism Diversity Optimism
Conformity Team oriented Think globally Civic duty

Patience Wellness Techno-literacy Confidence
Adherence to rules Involvement Informality Sociability
Law & order Personal growth Pragmatism Morality
Message that Your experience is You’re valued here There aren’t a lot of Working with bright
Motivates respected rules here & creative people
Veterans say: Boomers say: GenX’ers say: Nexters say:
Veterans — are rigid have all the money are trustworthy
Boomers — are self-absorbed are self-righteous are cool
GenX’ers — don’t respect experience are rude need cheering up

Nexters — are smart are good for are neo-boomers,
little critters doing my web page a 2nd generation
of spoiled brats

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