The growing influence of Generation Alpha

Published on Wednesday, 19 August 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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Generation Alpha includes all children born between 2010 and 2024, and although you might not know as much about this group as the Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials, they’re a force to be reckoned with! 

By 2025, it’s expected that there will be 2.2 billion Alphas around the world, making them the largest generation ever.

To explain the current exploits of our Alpha children and forecast their future, McCrindle has put together a social research paper called Understanding Generation Alpha, which we’re summarising here.

How did Generation Alpha get its name?

Although McCrindle could have gone back to the beginning of the Latin alphabet and called this group Generation A (following on the heels of Generations X, Y and Z), the researchers felt that a new approach was needed.

Generation Alpha is named after the first letter of the Greek alphabet to symbolise the fact that this group is being born entirely in a new century (rather than straddling the 20th and 21st Centuries), and Alpha isn’t the only name they go by.

Our children are also known as Generation Glass, Upagers, Global Gen and Multi-modals.

How do the Alphas fit in with society as a whole?

Generally-speaking, the Alphas are the children of the Millennials (born 1980-1994), the siblings of Gen Z (born 1995-2009) and they’ll be the parents of Generation Gamma (born 2040-2054). Generation Beta will follow the Alphas (filling in the years 2025-2039).

Generation Alphas’ numbers are rising most in India, China and Indonesia; and by the time the youngest Alphas become adults, the largest middle class component will be from Asia.

Why is Generation Alpha important?

Apart from the fact that we love them dearly, McCrindle says the Alphas are important in a big-picture way because they, ‘Represent the future and provide a lens through which we can look to the next decade and beyond.’

In time, the Alphas will represent a great proportion of the global population, and even now, these youngsters are influencing the purchases made by their Millennial families and adopting technology early.

How do Alphas compare to older generations?

McCrindle anticipates that the Alphas will live longer and be more culturally diverse and globally connected than previous generations. They’ll work, study and travel between countries, and have multiple careers.

Alphas are sometimes known as Upagers because physical adolescence will start earlier, and so will their social, psychological, educational and commercial sophistication. The researchers predict that adolescence will last longer, too, and the Alphas will stay in education – and at home – for longer. It follows that they’ll start their earning years later and will work into their 60s and 70s.

When it comes to people’s engagement in study, employment and life generally, McCrindle sees these differences between the generations:

   Generation Z   Generation Alpha   Generation Beta 
At school, this generation is focused on: Exam results Learning skills  Life skills 
Their education makes them: Employable  Adaptable  Entrepreneurial 
Their work style is: Participative Collaborative Co-creators
Their favoured payment method is: By credit card Digital  Digital 
Their technology is driven by: Touchscreen Vioce-recognition Gesture control 
Consumer trends are: Customised Personalised Predictive 

How has technology shaped Generation Alpha?

It’s recognised that technology is second nature to the Alphas. They began being born in the year that Instagram and the first iPad arrived (2010) and are au fait with smartphones and tablets, video games, smart speakers and streaming services because this tech is all they’ve ever known.

The Alphas adopt new technology incredibly quickly and, to put things in perspective, McCrindle says, ‘Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, the television took 13, the iPod just four, the internet three, Facebook just one and the Pokémon Go phenomenon took just 19 days!’

Alphas are sometimes called Generation Glass because they’ve been exposed to technology in their formative years. McCrindle says we’re yet to see the lifelong impact of all this screen interaction but predicts that it will present the Alphas with some positives and some unique challenges as well. 

Technology will also shape their consumer habits, and the researchers say, ‘Looking ahead, it is very likely that Generation Alpha will never use a wallet, single-use plastics, listen to the radio as a device, participate in a written exam or set an analogue alarm clock.’

What is the future of play?

Although the Alphas are very tech savvy and formally educated from an earlier age, there’s a feeling that they’re less adept when it comes to practical skills, like risk-assessment, goal setting and achievement, and hands-on competencies.

For this reason, McCrindle predicts that parents and educators will increasingly favour fun and educational toys which, ‘Develop specific skills such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), social competencies, entrepreneurial skills, strength and coordination, financial literacy, innovation and resourcefulness.’

Half to 60 per cent of today’s parents do feel that students are digitally-skilled, creative, curious and adaptable.

What education and careers will the Alphas have?

It’s predicted that 90 per cent of Alphas will finish high school (compared with 80 per cent now) and the majority will embrace further education in some form.

Once they enter the workforce, we can expect a lot of movement on the resume. On average, McCrindle predicts that the Alphas will have 18 different jobs over six distinct careers, and lots of these jobs don’t even exist yet!

New industries are emerging around things like nanotechnology, block-chain, cyber security, autonomous transport and virtual reality, and we can expect new child care services and carer roles, too.

How can care-givers support the Alphas as they grow up?

McCrindle says that parents (and grandparents) play an important role in guiding our children, giving them confidence, and helping them to invest in the future by learning life skills and people skills.

As with all generations, the Alphas will, ‘Still crave acceptance, community and belonging’ and it’s crucial that we meet these needs now and going forward. This involves taking the time to understand and engage our children and giving them opportunities to grow and experiment.

All in all, the researchers predict that Generation Alpha will encounter great change, but also many positives in the years ahead. They’ll live longer, be more formally educated, have children earlier and be the wealthiest generation so far.

Watch out, world!

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