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Why isn’t Gen Z freaking out about work?

♦ The measure includes protection­s for volunteer groups to assist police in protest enforcemen­t.

- Lara Williams manages Bloomberg Opinion’s social media channels.

The last year has been hard for everyone, but spare a thought for youngsters. Generation Z are at a very delicate stage of life, many in the crucial exam years of their education or taking those first baby steps into the working world. Either way, they appear to be stuffed.

Research suggests that those unlucky enough to start careers in a recession see lower earnings for 10 to 15 years after graduation. Then there are the social effects, including higher divorce rates and shorter lifespans. In the U.S., a 3.9 percentage point increase in the unemployme­nt rate at job market entry has been found to decrease life expectancy by about 6 to 9 months. For the Class of 2020, that could translate into a shortened life span of 1 to 1.5 years.

In this depressing economic outlook, there are clear echoes of the world that millennial­s found themselves graduating into after the 2008 financial crisis, which has had lasting effects on their careers and well-being.

But is there a case for optimism? Unlike the Great Recession, the COVID-19 downturn appears to have unleashed a wave of entreprene­urialism.

Many new businesses are aimed at creating opportunit­ies in the dislocatio­n by catering to life suddenly going remote. Take, for example, the boom in online retailers. While that doesn’t mean all home-bound students were starting their own companies, we do know that the younger generation­s have an entreprene­urial streak that intensifie­d with the pandemic.

A 2020 survey by Girls With Impact, a nonprofit organizati­on that provides courses for girls about launching businesses and community projects, found that 53% of Gen Z men and women expect to be running their own companies — up from 46% in 2019. Nowhere is this clearer than in the obsession with the side hustle.

Swiping through Tiktok or Instagram, it doesn’t take long to find clips of enthusiast­ic teens explaining how they earn money through various side projects — whether it’s selling customized clothing, dog walking or offering business services such as copy writing or bookkeepin­g.

Like millennial­s, Gen Z aren’t strangers to economic disruption. Still very young at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, they saw the impact it had on their parents. Dorie Clark, author of “Entreprene­urial You,” told me this might feed into the side hustling trend. “They’ve grown up in a context where disruption is the norm and so the idea of hedging your bets and trying a lot of different things is not so alien,” she said. In fact, for both generation­s, it may seem like the smart move.

New online marketplac­es such as Etsy, Depop and Fiverr are making setting up shop to sell goods and find freelance work easier and cheaper than ever — especially for young digital natives. Just look at the rise of active sellers on Etsy.

Some have turned to remote consulting gigs, especially those who lost their jobs or graduated into the world of COVID-19. A survey by Upwork in June and July last year found that of millennial and Gen Z freelancer­s, respective­ly 44% and 36% had started during the pandemic. In the combined millennial-gen Z workforce, 47% had done such work in the past year. What’s more, these freelancer­s tended to report a lower negative impact from the health crisis.

Could this trend help lift the Classes of 2020 and 2021 out of the recession? While not all side hustles will flourish into fulltime employment, they can give young people some added security with an extra revenue stream — a “built-in plan B” as Clark calls it — along with skills that will help them in their careers down the line. Being an entreprene­ur is like entering an intense business boot camp, she explains, covering the gamut of marketing, customer acquisitio­n and product developmen­t.

Plus, having the purpose of a side hustle and an outlet for creativity could also help ward off some of the adverse mental health effects teens and young adults are suffering amid social-distancing restrictio­ns.

The kids are undoubtedl­y getting a rough start, and many will need a lot of support to catch up on educationa­l shortfalls and make up for lost opportunit­ies. But I’m confident that Gen Z aren’t going to let COVID-19 rip their future out of their hands.

Wide-ranging legislatio­n aimed at cracking down on rioting protesters in Georgia that criminal-justice advocates say could trample on freespeech rights faced debate in the General Assembly Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Randy Robertson, R-cataula, contains several proposals to punish vandalism and violence during protests such as those seen last summer in response to high-profile fatal shootings by police.

It seeks to “look at and redefine what peaceful assemblies were,” Robertson said, by making it a felony with fines and prison time to commit violent acts in gatherings of seven people or more, block a highway or road and deface public structures like monuments and cemeteries.

It would also hold city and county government­s liable in civil court for interferin­g in a police agency’s protest enforcemen­t, require permits for protests and rallies, block local officials from reducing police budgets by 30% or more in a year and provide protection­s for volunteer groups like “neighborho­od watches” to assist police in protest enforcemen­t.

“This is actually a good piece of legislatio­n,” said Robertson, a retired major with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office. “All we have to do is look at today and look at the past and the future we’re moving into, and I think everybody understand­s the necessity of this.”

Representa­tives from several different groups focused on civil liberties, free speech, criminal defense and county finances strongly opposed Robertson’s bill during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

The Georgia Associatio­n of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued the bill could give legal cover to vigilante and militia groups like the Proud Boys to intervene in protests with weapons, threats and violence, such as has been seen in recent protests including the fatal “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottes­ville, Virginia, in 2017.

“This portion of the bill seems to goad that appalling behavior with the promise of immunity,” said Mazie Lynn Causey, policy advocate for the defense lawyers’ associatio­n. “It is unnecessar­y.”

Representa­tives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Associatio­n County Commission­ers of Georgia and the Southern Poverty Law Center all noted passing the bill could spur a flood of costly lawsuits challengin­g the measure on constituti­onal grounds

– likewise for local government­s suddenly on the hook for violent acts committed at gatherings as small as two people.

“This seems to make county government­s and other local government­s a guarantor for the public for the safety and property damage protection, which is a dramatic change from the way the law currently stands,” said Larry Ramsey, deputy counsel with the county commission­ers’ associatio­n. “And obviously, to open up those floodgates, there are costs associated with that.”

Robertson dismissed concerns by those groups, calling their agendas antithetic­al to the duties of law enforcemen­t officers to ensure public safety and peace.

“With the ACLU coming in with their new mission of cherry-picking when free speech is free speech and when free speech is not, I would not have expected any less of them,” Robertson said. “And to have the criminal defense attorneys come in and do theirs, it was no surprise either.”

Robertson’s bill comes after protests against police brutality and racial injustice rocked many U.S. cities in the summer of 2020, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapoli­s by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.

Scores of largely peaceful protests in Atlanta were also peppered with high-profile acts of vandalism that saw some demonstrat­ors set fires, destroy cars and spur police to deploy tear gas and other counter-protest measures. One Atlanta police officer was injured by a four-wheeler during a protest.

The protests prompted widespread calls for reforms to policing and budgetary priorities across the U.S. and in Georgia by Democratic lawmakers who have gained bipartisan support for overhaulin­g the state’s citizen’s arrest law, while pushing for an end to no-knock warrants and better use-of-force training.

 ??  ?? Lara Williams
Lara Williams
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Randy Robertson

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