Gen Z and the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Look at what the Pandemic means for this Generation

by Ashitha Arun

Up until a year ago, Generation Z seemed on-track to own the world. The economy was strong and unemployment was at record lows in many countries. Society was becoming more inclusive than ever, and the internet was in everyone’s pockets. The future looked bright, but then, Bam! The COVID-19 pandemic hit. It took us all by surprise, bringing the entire world to a grinding halt. 

Globally, Gen Z faces dire situations. The generation predominantly consists of school-goers and college-students. At a time when online education is inaccessible for half of the world, the formative years of Gen Z’s ers have been put on hold indefinitely. That poses a challenge that is arguably the most serious any generation has faced for quite some time. Most people face uncertainty of this kind as they start to graduate college and enter the workforce but gratefully to the pandemic, schools and colleges have closed, leaving youngsters preemptively worrying about their future.

Gen Z’s young adult life will likely look very different from what they had anticipated, especially for the older part of this generation. The unforeseen catastrophe of a pandemic will now dictate how Generation Z navigates the world as adults and what sort of the future they create. For a multitude of young people, the Coronavirus pandemic has become the defining moment of their formative years, and the economic challenges, generated by it, will shape who they grow up to become much in the same way the 1930s’ Great Depression caused its generation to become frugal adults. 

Even though it’s likely that nothing will be the same ever again, and Gen Z’s ers may have to navigate untested waters in the future, there is a silver lining. While this generation might have been affected by the pandemic at a much younger age than any other, it is also true that as the world’s first generation of digital natives, they are arguably better equipped for the future than any other. Characterized by an exceptional aptitude for adapting to change, and unparalleled comfort with technology, the shift from offline working to online shouldn’t be a challenge for them. The older members of this generation are already using the internet as their primary medium of communication, and social media as a tool to bring about change. So, if anything, the pandemic might have sped up the inevitable shift of the world moving from a physical platform to an online one. That is, of course, referring to the parts of the world where access to technology and the internet is a basic amenity. But unfortunately, access to technology is still a luxury enjoyed by the privileged few in many communities. Therefore, it is important now, like never before, to focus on bridging this gap. Governments and organizations recognizing this need and stepping up to fulfil it could mean the difference between the survival or collapse of communities in a post-pandemic world.

For the Gen Z’s ers, as a generation that is defined by self-expression and open-mindedness, it is imperative that they use these qualities in navigating the post-pandemic world, where acceptance and attitude of mutual assistance will be essential in moving forward as a society. Looking at the future of this generation, there is certainly a lot of hope in everything they can do for humanity and how they can shape the world after the pandemic.