May 16, 2017 6:53 pm JST

Southeast Asian millennials confident about region's future

Youths in Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam most upbeat

JUSTINA LEE, Nikkei staff writer

SINGAPORE -- Southeast Asian millennials are showing strong consumer confidence due to growing affluence, rapid advances in technology and infrastructure, and increased access to education in the region, according to a recent study by Mastercard.

The study surveyed respondents, aged 18-29, from 17 markets including Japan and New Zealand on their views on the economy, employment prospects and quality of life. Their answers were scored on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing maximum pessimism and 100 maximum optimism.

The study found that millennials from emerging economies such as Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam displayed the highest levels of optimism. This is in sharp contrast to more developed countries like Singapore and Malaysia, where high levels of pessimism were recorded.

Cambodian millennials were the most positive with a score of 95.4 points, followed by Myanmar at 94 points and Vietnam at 93.2 points. Malaysian millennials were the most pessimistic with a score of 42.6 points, followed by Singapore at 47.3 points.

Mastercard says one of the main reasons for the difference is that potential investment gains in emerging markets are "exponentially higher than their more developed counterparts." This in turn creates more opportunities for economic growth, employment and upward social mobility, it says.

"These youths are just beginning to get excited about the opportunities ahead, which their peers in developed countries have already experienced," according to the statement. The survey predicts that as millennials move into the middle class, they are "spending and consuming more, stimulating economic growth."

Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, with the middle-class expected to grow dramatically. The Asian Development Bank estimates that by 2030, nearly half a billion people in the countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be considered "middle class," loosely defined by the World Bank as people earning $10-100 per day.

The International Monetary Fund's World Economic Review has also forecast that ASEAN's emerging markets will grow at a faster pace than the Asia-Pacific region. It projects their gross domestic product per capita will grow by 4.59% by 2022, compared with a 1.72% forecast for Asia-Pacific's developed markets.

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