Judgment Call

Gen Z, the babyless generation?

Lilibeth Frondoso

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Gen Z, the babyless generation?
To many Gen Zs, having a baby does not compute

Video production work at Rappler is all about teamwork as much as it is about content. Unlike the reporters and videographers who fly solo or in pairs, video producers must navigate a world of relationships – from the dreamer CEO to the hard-nosed company driver, to the cranky line managers and their monosyllabic unit members, to demanding reporters and their digitally-clueless online interview guests. They even deal with entertainment managers and their (sometimes diva) talents.

There’s an added layer of complication: our producers are Gen Z. One minute they are conflict-averse, the next they overshare. They are ruthless bargain-hunters with discriminating tastes. They demand raw and unfiltered but would dive head-first into an ocean of digital.

But one facet fascinates me the most and I’ve heard it often enough from these kids that I can’t let go: they don’t want to have babies. (I like to crack the macabre joke in front of them, “I knew it, Gen Z will cause the extinction of mankind.”)

And it’s not an empty oath – Gen Z’s teen pregnancy rates in the US plummeted in 2018, going from 48 to just 17 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19. While we can’t say they’re having less sex (they swear they’re actually into it more, and guilt-free to boot), they certainly are not bearing the brunt of their sexual adventures. Why? They use contraceptives like they wash their hands and count to twenty.

That “I’ve-got-this-covered” mentality ties up with another facet of Gen Z that will play a role in what I’ve dubbed as the “babyless generation:” they can be obsessive. Maybe that’s why they’re at the center of the controversy on the hyper-inflation of grades raised by UP journalism teacher Danilo Arao. The common sentiment on social media is that if you’re all cum laude, it doesn’t mean anything.

My educated guess is that the obsessiveness was wired into their brains by a lifetime of interaction with electronic devices – they press the right buttons in the right order and they get the right results. If they don’t get the results they want, they try a new combo. It’s the classic gamer’s response: Fight. Die. Repeat. 

My Gen Z workmates tell me there’s a meme about the “high functioning, sad Gen Z.” (Yes, they’re also called the saddest generation.)  The meme shows a kid furiously finishing a task, all the while crying a river. Devastated, yes, but damn it, they will finish the task.

There’s even such a thing as “scheduled crying.” They post while crying, they even selfie while crying. Believe you me.

But back to the specter of a low birth rate for succeeding generations. (Ok, I exaggerate, but despite the Philippines being a baby factory, look at China and its low-birth rate crisis.) 

When I ask why they say they don’t want to have babies, the most common answer is akin to why they feel strongly for climate change: “I don’t want to bring someone into a world of suffering and chaos.” “It’s not just about my happiness, it’s for the greater good.”

To other Gen Z, having a baby does not compute: “I can’t even take good care of myself, how can I even think of giving birth to another human being?”

One of my guys explains where that social conscience comes from, “To Gen Z, everything has meaning. We’re conscious that whatever we do has an impact.” What could be more impactful to a dying planet than wanton procreation?

Will they change their minds down the line about having babies? Probably. But they are already making an impact with this refusal to make babies now. It’s already a generational statement. 

Thus, the bigger question in my head is: What role will Gen Z play in the future? Will they change the world? Or at the very least, will their generation give us a crop of progressive, eco-friendly, solution-centric politicians? 

Why do I like to take this generation apart? It’s not just out of sociological curiosity. I’m looking for hope. Looking into their eyes, I hope they craft a better future for the next gen – better than what we Boomers are passing on to them.

I hope they never “grow up.” – Rappler.com

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Lilibeth Frondoso

She currently heads Multimedia Strategy and Growth in Rappler.