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Riots in UK: Demonstration of social unrest of Generation Y

Aug 26, 2011 2:31:57 PM - www.ft.lk

According to latest report of Global Peace Index (GPI), Sri Lanka ranked 126 while Norway ranked in ninth place. Here we are talking about the riots that took place in UK recently and the same GPI ranked the UK in 26th place (100 places ahead of Sri Lanka).

A series of incidents erupted in England starting from the first week of this month. The first incident which led to the riots took place on 4 August 2010. One 29-year-old Mark Duggan was shot by Police.

Then on 6 August 2011, a peaceful protest was carried out by the local residents, community leaders and some relatives of Mark Duggan. Then the riots at mass scale erupted on 7 August.

The riots that started in London have spread across England to Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham. More importantly, according to statistics, of people already arrested and currently being charged for their participation in the riots, almost 70% are in the age group of 15-24.
According to the BBC, the prison population is rising by more than 100 people a day as courts deal with cases of rioting and looting. Ministry of Justice figures show that jail numbers in England and Wales have increased to a record high of 86,654, beating last week’s total of 85,931.
Generation Y
Significantly, the 15-24 age category belongs to Generation Y. The people who were born during the period of 1977-1994 are referred as Generation Y. This generation can be considered as incredibly sophisticated in relation to technology.
These kids are much more racially and ethnically diverse and more segmented as an audience aided by the fast expansion of cable TV, radio, internet, etc. More importantly, the following characteristics can be observed in their behaviour.
According to Weiler (2004), it can be observed that there is more dependence on television and the internet for their information needs among Generation Y and only a very small percentage of the general population prefers to learn by reading.
Companies always paid special attention to this generation. Companies like KPMG and Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Atkins engineering consultancy – all of which are among the ‘Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For’ – are also responding to the challenge of Generation Y by offering all or some of the following: a broad range of experiences; early international postings; social responsibility initiatives; development and learning opportunities; and a good work-life balance (business.timesonline.co.uk).
This behaviour has even been identified by marketers and also by social networking groups like Facebook. They are trying to get a competitive advantage by focusing more on this segment.
The profile of social networking users in Europe reveals an audience that generally skews younger, with 15-24 year olds representing 25.3 per cent of users. Across the world, there is no exception. By 2011 March, 35% of users in Facebook were in the age category of 18-25.
Causes for the riots
What were the possible causes for UK riots? The number of out-of-work young people is at the highest level since records began in 1992. During the past quarter alone, unemployment skyrocketed to nine per cent. Youth unemployment is far worse and there is a talk of a ‘lost generation’. Inequality is getting worse and reaching unexpected levels.
As an example, in inner London 20% of people have 60% of the total income; 19% of the population of Inner London is in the top tenth for income nationwide while 16% are in the bottom tenth. It’s remarkable that many of the areas affected by the rioting are within touching distance of poorer areas.
The UK economy has also not recovered after the recession in 2008. According to EGOVMONITOR on 23 August 2011, Japan with a contraction of 0.9% performed worst among the G7 countries while the UK, with a 0.7% growth in the past year, came second last. Even Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the UK increased by only 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2011, following an increase of 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2011. Adding fuel to this climate, the education benefits provided for the students has also been restricted.
The government raised university tuition fees since coming into power, putting higher education further out of the reach of youths, due to which those students (mostly in Generation Y category) suffered immensely.
Enormous demographic shift
More importantly, Britain is undergoing an enormous demographic shift and you find million more 15-24 year olds in Britain today than a decade ago. As discussed earlier, of people already arrested and currently being charged for their participation in the riots, almost 70% are in age category of 15-24. So they belong to Generation Y.
Interestingly, the Government blamed social media like Facebook, Twitter on this matter. The Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron has issued a statement that the Government was considering banning social media sites due to the current riots in the country.
According to him, the riots had been “organised via social media” and “when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them”. But this is all about Generation Y and their behaviour.
The understanding of the behaviour of different generations is of paramount importance, even for countries like Sri Lanka. Especially once you have to face economic disasters or sometimes natural disasters, we can observe different behaviour and sometimes it can be recommended that changing education system and so on will offset these types of behaviour. In the UK this riot can be considered a ‘demonstration of social unrest of Generation Y.
nWeiler A (2004), ‘Information-Seeking Behaviour in Generation Y Students: Motivation, Critical Thinking, and Learning Theory,’ The Journal of Academic Librarianship
Volume 31, Issue 1

(The writer is a Chartered Marketer and Consultant, Senior Lecturer in Marketing – Open University of Sri Lanka and a certified trainer for tutors and mentors in online learning. He holds an MBA (Colombo), B. Sc Mkt. (Special) (SJP), MCIM, Dip in MKT (UK), MSLIM, MAAT and Dip in CMA, Chartered Intermediate from ICASL.)

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