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Generation A

Many people immediately think of Douglas Coupland, right? And the world where the bees disappeared, right? But no, there will be no re-edition or continuity of this book. And what I want to talk to you about has nothing to do with bees, let alone honey. Although we are going to talk about things as, or even more, important than bees and the possibility of their extinction. And you will understand why?

In this Generation A, the A stands for Autism! It's nothing new, right? And why do I keep on insisting on this issue? First of all because the more people talk about autism, the more people become aware of the subject. And no, this is not my idea. It has been shown for example that during the month of April, during the autism awareness month, the demand for information about autism increases significantly. And with it comes a greater number of requests for clarification from health professionals on issues relating to autism. So, talking about autism is important and preferably done by more people.

But I also keep talking about autism because, out of the 78 million autistic people worldwide, around 70 per cent of autistic adults are not employed or integrated in the labour market. And if we want to think about real numbers, get the idea that there are about 1.5 million autistic people who will reach adulthood in the next decade.

And if we think about generations, in the next decade, those who will start approaching the labour market belong to Generation Z. In other words, we are talking about people who on average were born between the second half of the 1990s and the beginning of 2010. The generation before that was Generation Y, also called the Echo Boom. And as such, Generation Z basically represents the birth of the World Wide Web, which we call digital natives.

And if we think about the people of Generation A, they too are digital natives, and many of them significantly skilled in this technological area. Which would make them people with an excellent set of tools to face the needs of the labour market, right? And that would mean that many of them would have no difficulty to start working as soon as they finish their training, right?

But unfortunately that's not the reality. Many people belonging to Generation A, who actually belong to Generation Z, and who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, have countless difficulties in integrating the labour market. And I dare say that most of these difficulties come from the fact that the labour market and society in general is not aware of autism and neurodiversity in general.

There is still a significant number of people who do not know what autism is. Or who then think they know what autism is. But when we try to understand their understanding we find that it is full of stereotypes and misinformation. Then, we also have many people, mainly people in charge of hiring in organisations who think that hiring autistic people will represent an expense and that there will be no return. This is totally wrong and contrary to reality. In other words, what we have is that hiring autistic and neurodiverse people in general represents an added value for them, but also for their non-autistic colleagues and for the Organisation as a whole. That's right, hiring autistic people represents an added value to the Organisation's profits.

This change will necessarily imply a change in the way of thinking, feeling and acting of the Organisation as a whole. And here again we find a set of barriers. Whether in the proposal of change and that afflicts people in general. But also the barrier of the costs and that the people responsible in the Organisation see this transformation and change as an associated cost, instead of seeing this change as an investment with a return for the Organisation.

Not employing autistic and neurodiverse people in general is to demonstrate a complete ignorance about what this community represents. But it also shows a disrespect for people's Human Rights. In addition to representing a very bad decision making, absurd even. This is because those who precisely make the decision not to hire autistic and neurodiverse people, as well as all those in Society who do not speak out against it, will pay in taxes that need to be channelled to a group of people who may be working and producing capital, but are receiving a pension and other social support. The direct and indirect costs related to this decision making is disastrous. Ask anyone who knows about economics and management, because I rely heavily on the figures in the numerous reports produced over the last 20 years.

And no, this issue is not just about autism. It is about the evolution of humanity itself, about all of us, and about how we continue to view that which represents difference. And no, these events do not take place only in Portugal or in other weaker economies. They occur and in the same way in other developed countries with a strong economy. Be it in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the United States, Australia, Italy, France, etc.

Which leads me to ask - Which generation do we want to be?

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