It's going to be a me, me, me millennium

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The Independent Online
THE NEW millennium is likely to get off to a chilly start, with the "caring, sharing Nineties" merely a passing phase, according to a national survey to be published this week.

Becoming rich will be a more important personal achievement in the 21st century than attaining health or happiness, the findings of London advertising agency Collett Dickenson Pearce suggest. And nine out of 10 respondents believe the world will be an even less sympathetic place in the next 100 years.

The CDP survey, conducted among more than 1,000 adults across Britain by RSL Research in March, reveals a degree of cynicism tempered by pragmatism.

Almost half of younger adults surveyed believe the planet will soon be too overcrowded to support everyone, while the pursuit of money is deemed the best route to future security. Financial security is an even higher priority amongst 25- to 44-year- olds and getting a good job or promotion was highest in the minds of 15- to 24-year-olds.

The findings are endorsed by two separate studies published last week. In 2010: Marketing Tomorrow's Consumer, Mintel International paints a bleak picture of life in the 21st century.

The study predicts a nation of increasingly diverse consumers living increasingly isolated lives who are forced to become more self-reliant. Households will become increasingly cut off from their neighbours, the findings suggest. At the same time, today's baby-boom generation will feel more and more financially insecure. Growing anxiety will focus on job insecurity and the declining welfare state.

Meanwhile, a study published last Thursday by the Pension Provision Group warned that six out of 10 Britons now face poverty when they retire. There will always be people unable to put away enough money to support themselves when they are older, the report says, warning of a widening gap between rich and poor pensioners if the current system is not changed.

Beth Clayden, senior account planner at CDP, believes her agency's findings are disappointing but unsurprising. "Research often confirms cliches we'd rather believe were inaccurate or wrong," she says. "Our findings, however, reflect spontaneous, gut reactions from the general public and do reflect other studies I've seen."

Consumers have not suddenly turned altruistic because of the caring Nineties, she claims. "Other evidence I have seen, among young people in particular, suggests there is still a strong belief that a good job and income are keys to future stability and happiness."

This attitude is most acute amongst 16- to 24-year-olds whose future paths are less clear, less so amongst late twenty- and thirtysomethings whose priorities shift when they have been in work longer and start having children. Interest in health, the family and happiness increases with age.

Janie Rogers, a sixth-former from south London, appears to endorse the agency's conclusion. "My focus is getting good qualifications to get a good job," she says. "No one else is going to look after you. I want to earn as much as I can. Only then will it be safe to decide what I really want to do and where I want to be."

Her older brother, Tim, 26, is an estate agent. "You really only have two choices: opt in or opt out. I'd like not to care about money, like some of my friends. But if you have any awareness of the future, the only option is to work, earn and look out for yourself."

In the light of all this, it's hardly surprising that few respondents to the CDP survey exhibit much excitement about the imminent arrival of the 21st century. And they show almost as little interest in the Millennium celebration itself, says Ms Clayden. Only 52 per cent say they intend to celebrate at all.

Bad news for church leaders comes in the revelation that more of those surveyed say the year 2000 is the anniversary of the first calendar - 26 per cent - than of the birth of Christ (22 per cent).

And it's not much better for the Metropolitan Police. Of the 48 per cent who do intend to celebrate New Year's Eve, 1999, CDP estimates as many as three million plan to descend on London and, in particular, Trafalgar Square.