Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Generation X not slackers after all

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At a time when most people have traditionally settled into their careers and started families, a growing portion of the workforce is rejecting the latter in favour of the former.

According to a study by the Centre for Work-Life Policy, 43 per cent of women born between 1965 and 1978 have put off having kids or intend to have none. The research says the same is true of 32 per cent of men polled.

Meet the Gen X generation, a term made popular by Canadian author Douglas Coupland in his 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.

Once referred to as slackers and the Bust Generation, the group once criticized for complaining about their fast-food careers is now working 60-plus hours a week.

A press release by the centre suggests Generation Xers are burying themselves in work to meet their own strong career ambitions and weather economic challenges.

With a rapidly aging population, there will be those who bemoan Generation X's delay in having children, let alone multiple children, like the Baby Boomers they are expected to support in retirement.

But the Boomers themselves are part of the problem. According to the report, that generation is working an average of nine years longer than the one that came before it. This has stalled Gen Xers in their careers, which for many means it's not a good time to start a family.

And who can blame them? There are enough pressures placed on Gen X at the moment. The last thing they need to worry about is having children.

Take into consideration as well that there are fewer jobs to go around and a whole new generation is ready to graduate into an uncertain workforce.

People should be allowed to make their own decisions based on their current predicament without outside pressures. If people want to focus on their careers, let them. If a couple can't or doesn't want to have children, let that be OK too.

And, as the report also points out, the Gen Xers are masters of mastering change. They are hard-working, resourceful and eager for new experiences. The rest of the world just needs to realize that and work with them.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2011 A14

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