It is hard to know why millennials are described as "Generation Me". It is particularly hard to understand for baby boomers, who have been called the selfish generation with some justice, as were their parents, the wartime generation.

The wartime generation were lifelong beneficiaries of the welfare state, largely founded by Social Security Act 1938, and even after the country changed direction in 1984 the wartime generation, by then in or approaching retirement, fought to preserve universal superannuation.

Baby boomers, meanwhile, were raised on family benefits and had largely received a tertiary education before the Government reformed the economy, means-testing family benefits and setting fees that forced students to take out loans.

So millennials, the second generation to carry a personal debt into a more difficult job market than their grandparents entered, can reasonably protest at being labelled self-centred. A survey we look at today finds further challenges for the label.


Youth charity Inspiring Stories asked 13-30-year-olds to rank the issues that cause them most concern and top of the list were the environment and the need to talk about mental health and wellbeing, the subject of an ongoing Herald series on youth suicide.

This generation has many admirable social and environmental sensitivities not as evident in older generations. The difference is stark when rugby crowds stand up for the national anthem. To sing the first verse in Maori you probably need to have been to school within the past 30 years.

Kiwis under 40 are more comfortable with Te Reo, biculturalism, ethnic, gender and sexual diversity than older generations.

It is a great pity the younger generation's outlook is less powerful in national decisions than it should be, simply because not enough millennials vote at elections. Fewer than half of those aged 18-29 voted at the last election.

Is that attributable to self-centredness, a lack of interest in the wider community? It could be no party offers the desired social and environmental ideals, or are this group content with the country and see no need to vote?

None of those are good reasons. The country needs those missing votes.