From Lucky retirees to Boomers and Millennials – the X-Y breakdown of generations in Australia

Bige enough for three - Generation X&Y, Millennials and Boomers have all hit the workforce - with different skills and experiences.
Bige enough for three - Generation X&Y, Millennials and Boomers have all hit the workforce - with different skills and experiences.

Everyone’s heard of over-privileged Boomers and entitled Millennials, but do you know about the Lucky Generation?

And who the heck are Gen X and Y? 

In a quest to define the parameters of ageist arguments in pubs, homes and workplaces, we’ve gone the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for answers, and were in for a few surprises.

The first was that Gen X and Y is the same group of people.

Born between 1966 and 1986, they were originally split into two groups. Generation X, the group overshadowed by the Boomers, and the arguably more overshadowed Generation Y, who’s only defining characteristic is that they come after X.

It might be easier to think of them as the Grunge – or Teen Angst – Generation.

During their childhood and adolescence, divorce and separation became common. 

As they got older, they were the first to experience user-pays education and job insecurity, with unemployment levels of up to 15 per cent.

After the free love attitudes of the 60’s, Gen X and Y were exposed to the harsh realities of HIV, AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases.

It’s not all bad news. They’re more educated than their predecessors, with about a quarter holding a Bachelor degree or higher.

Boomers haven’t done too badly in the education stakes though, with about 20 per cent holding a Bachelor degree or higher.

They’re often resented by younger generations – born between 1946 and 1966, during the post-war economic boom, they were able to take advantage of high employment rates and free education to score a financial head-start.

But, as they’re quick to remind younger generations, it wasn’t all easy.

Most of their challenges were social – women were entering the workforce and demanding equal opportunities. ‘No-fault’ divorce was introduced, enabling dissatisfied spouses to start again.

Indigenous Australians fought for – and won – the right to vote in 1962 (1965 in Queensland), and in 1967 were included in the Constitution for the first time.

And despite all their good fortune, it’s not the Boomers who are referred to as the Lucky Generation.

Luck is relative – born between 1926 and 1946, this generation was so named because they had an easier time of it than their parents. Not hard, when your parents lived through two World Wars and a Depression.

Although they were born in hard times, as young adults they entered the workforce during an economic boom and were unlikely to have served in either war.

They also have the highest percentage of overseas-born members of any generation, with 36 per cent of the Lucky Generation born outside Australia. Immigration is nothing new.

Finally, we have the bratty, entitled Millennials, who the ABS has labelled the iGeneration.

Born between 1986 and 2006, this generation grew up during the technological revolution. 

Despite all the talk about Millennials’ work ethic, about half of them haven’t finished studying yet.

Longer degrees mean many members of this generation may not begin their careers until their mid 20’s – around 2030 for those on the tail-end.

When they do, Boomers, Gen X and Y, and Millennials will be pretty equally represented. Each group has between five and six million members.

Social-media savvy, their skills can be undervalued by older members of the workforce, who often simultaneously depend on them.

They’re emerging into an increasingly casualised workforce, with high property prices.

Lock-out laws mean the iGeneration are less able to party like it’s 1969. They’re also less likely to drink than their older counterparts – but more likely to use illicit drugs, if they’re over the age of 19.