• Who is Gen Z? What’s so special about them?
  • What’s the difference between Gen Y & Z?
  • Who are the Gen Y and Z in Malaysia? What are their future in Malaysia?
  • Are you prepared for the coming of Gen Z?

So much have been talked and debated about Gen Y over the last few years and yet there are people who still complain and think Gen Y are naïve, lack of respect, inter-personal skills and have no loyalty towards employer. The negative perceptions about Gen Y has not changed much and yet now, we have a new breed who is even more challenging and is growing up. They are Generation Z or Gen Z in short.

Who is Gen Z?


They are a demographic cohort after Gen Y. There are numerous other names that describe them such as iGen, Homelanders, Screenagers, Global Gen and few others. I prefer to describe them as Apps Gen due to the emergence of application for software programming or Smart Gen as in integration of computing technology in cellular phone.


What’s the difference between Gen Y & Z?

In US, Gen Y are categorized those born in 1981 – 1994 and Gen Z in 1995 – 2010. Gen Y was raised in the era where web was created. Google was established in 1997 when Gen Y was growing up. They embraced technology with excitement. The Z was raised on social web where Youtube, Facebook, Whatsapp were created. IPhone which was the invention of smart technology revolution started in 2007.

Due to the development of technology, Gen Y commonly multi-task with 2 screens while Gen Z 5 screens. As result, Gen Y is digital savvy where as Gen Z digital centric. For Gen Z, they can’t comprehend if the world does not have internet as they live in it. For Gen Y, the technology was developed while they were growing up and it is something they embrace.

*Note: There is no study on differences between Malaysian Gen Y & Z and above is used as reference for our understanding of Malaysian generations.

To understand the issue of generation, it is essential to know the history of events that formed core of culture, beliefs, values and mind-set that influence the formative years of people.


Gen Y in US

1980s is the time where technology expanded and start of digital revolution in US. It is the internet bubble where Silicon Valley became the center of computer industry. Ebay, Yahoo, Paypal, Amazon and Google were some of the mega companies founded in Silicon Valley in 1990s.

It was a period of growth with expansion and Gen Y wanted to break-away from the norm and tradition which became possible through technology platforms.   They grew up in a period of strong economy.

Crossing the millennium, US went into a series of tragedies. Dot.com bubble burst in early 2000, followed by terrorist attack on September 11. The country faced Great Recession in 2009 which led to bursting of housing bubble, high unemployment and others.


Gen Z in US

Unlike Gen Y, Gen Z were born into a time of recession, terrorism, violence, volatility and complexity. As result, their characters and perspectives vary.  They became realists that seek for stability and security. They are frugal in spending although online shopping is the norm. They want to create, live stream and help to make up as they participate.

Teen obesity has tripled in US since 1970. While Gen Y loved sports and adventure, Gen Z sees sports as a health necessity. Their attention span has shortened to 8 seconds and they won’t listen if you cannot engage them.

Nevertheless, both generations have similarities as they are technology users. They are collaborative and socially engaged.

 Gen Y in Malaysia (1985 – 2004)

Based on my survey, Malaysia was at least 5 years behind US in the early 1980s for technology. The technology infrastructure was not developed until Multi Super Corridor was created in 1996. Malaysia underwent tremendous industrial development to capture foreign investments to manufacture high end value added products for exports in 1990s. From 1988 – 1996, Malaysia’s economy expanded at 8% annually, the second fastest after China. Per capita income doubled from 1990 – 1996.

Internet boomed after 1997 when the telecommunication industry opened with Maxis, Digi, U Mobile selling reasonable data packages with Nokia and Motorola leading the affordable mobile devices. This was the time when our Gen Y who were teenagers embraced technology with enthusiasm.

Similarly like US, our Malaysian Gen Y is highly educated and it is common they continue to post graduate studies. Our culture emphasizes the importance of education and Malaysian parents especially those of pervious generations who didn’t get the desirable education level due to poverty, would do their best to provide.


Gen Z in Malaysia (2005 onwards)

Malaysia recovered in early 2000 after Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 but it didn’t regain its momentum of high growth. It went into a phase of flat growth without major breakthrough.   We caught up in technology and the speed is up-to-mark with neighbouring countries. Youtube was created in 2005, Facebook 2007, iPhone 2007 followed by a series of other technological gadgets and app-based solutions. This denotes the development change of technology into social media.

In 2016, 92% of population had 3G data coverage and 64% of people had 4G coverage access in Malaysia However, as we are not a developed country yet, there is disparity in usage between children from urban and rural.

Nevertheless, digital technology is absolutely necessary for Gen Z like the need for water and air to mankind. The oldest being 13, what are their future like when they join the workforce? Are our corporations and industries ready to cater to their needs when they enter the work market?

To gauge the answers, we need to explore few impending issues.

1. Education system – are we doing the right thing to nurture them to equip with the necessary skills? Industry 4.0 is already under way and it is about smart factory with cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing etc. More and more new jobs that never exist 10 years ago are coming up. Is our education providing the content and skills that is needed by the industries of the future?

2. US children’s attention span is reduced to only 8 seconds! What can you do for 8 seconds? What can you teach so that they can learn in 8 seconds? I believe our Malaysian children are not far away from 8 seconds although there is no data. Definitely, the way things are taught has to be totally changed and no longer paper and pen with massive memorization.

3. Gen Y communicates in text and as stated above, Gen Z in images. Books are no longer attractive and it has to be evolved into comic style story telling. Lessons in inter-active gadgets is positively the attraction for attention.

4. Higher education will continue to place importance but they would be more selective. They look for specific areas of interest or skills to learn. General subjects like Bachelor of Arts or Science may no longer be valued as much. They prefer something more practical or immediate use.

5. Our Gen Z have global awareness and travel widely. This is also the current habits of Malaysians who have the spending power for travel and family trips are common.

The above are few to highlight. Are you ready for the coming of Gen Z? After Gen Z is Gen Alpha but many are still complaining about Gen Y. Virtual Reality(VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already a reality and Japan has created robots as pet, waiter, care taker for elderly. It is a matter of time it will come into Malaysia in a big way to assimilate into our lives. I drag to think our Gen Alpha will play with RoboDog of having a real pet. When it happens, it shall be time to re-define the new Generation Alpha.

Lily Lau is a trainer, coach & consultant who aims to inspire people to reach their potential through self-discovery of personal talents. She is Master Certified for Colored Brain and Directive Communication Psychology and has conducted many trainings in this topic. You can find out your Colored Brain by engaging her. Please email lily@culture-dynamics.com.