Updated: Jun 7, 2021
The Pacific millennial.
What does an average Pacific millennial look like?
By definition we are 'a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century', otherwise known as Gen Y - but that definition is a loosely used term. The years vary, but we're usually those born between the years 1980/1 - 1994/6 (depending on your source) and are around 25 to 40 years of age.
For us in the Solomon Islands, those of us in that age bracket make up a significant portion of our country's population. In the approximately 686,884 people (UN data) making up our country, we hold roughly 70% of this - around 480,000 young women and men.
According to our policy definitions of 'youth', we are those in the age bracket of 15-35 years of age. 'Millennial' in our youthful country almost equates to 'Youth' in the Solomon Island context - and encapsulates most of us in both definitions.
By definition, I identify as most of my peers do as a millennial - and youth - living in the Pacific.
And we live in paradise.... or, a warped reality of it.
We are most likely still living at home with our families.
Most of us would be counted in the 23% of the population that live below the poverty line (according to the World Bank).
We may also be experiencing, as I have over the past years since coming back from university, the difficult situation of what I have come to call, the 'culture induced overwhelm' phenomenon.
Want to know what "culture-induced overwhelm" looks like, in a Pacific millennial?
I think it looks like working an average 9-5 job, but being expected to:
- contribute to bride prices, engagements, deaths etc. in the family (that is our cultural fabric and cannot be erased or overlooked because it is an integral part of Melanesian society and the gift of our forebears in constructing cultural frameworks of helping each other in the community) ;
- whilst keeping on top of loans (if you have one);
- car repayments (if you have one);
- funding the regular 'contribution to living expenses' relatives may sometimes ask for;
- and paying the usual bills (rent, electricity, etc), if you are living alone OR contributing towards the house groceries/bills (if you are still living with family - not unusual here in Solomon Islands, where first homes cost nearer to the million dollar marks)...
All that, PLUS doing the usual grocery run and paying for general expenses are ENOUGH to burn out myself and my peers, who have not had ANY financial literacy education in our formative high school years...
Add that on top of the tax the government taxes us regularly (40% PAYE, 1% HCC, etc.) that cut into our payslips, plus our NPF (including voluntary contributions towards our NPF) and gurrrrl... Don't ASK me how I get from one fortnight to the other - whilst keeping my child in school - getting myself to work every day - and paying for my 'haus mere' every. working.day.
In the midst of all the political turmoil and counter-productivity our country's leadership decisions are generating lately, I really DO wish we had frameworks in place to take care of our youth... Particularly the young ones eager to be the change-makers and leaders in their communities. They've gone out and tried to do good by themselves and their families in getting further education (whether at Rural Training Centres or at universities). Can our country honour that perseverance and start initiatives like 'First Home Loans' or match skill-sets to the industry, so we are actually using our human resources for the better? Instead of churning graduates through one job offer after the other, in sectors they haven't even been educated in, BECAUSE of the scarcity of jobs in the country.
It makes me so sad (and angry!) that such a glaringly large part of our population is so under-utilised.
Our youth, and every Pacific millennial out there today will graduate from 'consumer', to 'employee' to 'executive' one day.
It helps me sleep better at night, knowing my country is thinking about how best to equip our nation's young leaders for tomorrow. That steps are being taken to counter some of the unintended consequences that an education is generating for us.
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