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Many Asian teenagers today are more affluent than their parents’ generation, and they are open to international values due to the speed of the internet revolution.
However, parents continue to have a strong influence over their children’s lives which influences teenagers’ choices.
In the 1950s Asia Pacific was one of the most impoverished regions in the world. Just half a century later, Asia contains economic giants such as Japan and also some of the fastest growing economies, such as China and India and the tiger economies of South East Asia. This has led to real gains in income and the emergence of a middle class and with it the surfacing of teenage lifestyles previously limited to the West.
|Per capita disposable incomes in Asia Pacific|
|Real growth in per capita disposable income:2001-2006||Per capita disposable income US$: 2006|
|Hong Kong, China||4.6||19,647|
|Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics|
Overall, many Asian teenagers nowadays are more affluent than their parents used to be, and they are open to international values due to the speed of the internet revolution.
In East Asia, the teachings of Confucius are widespread, and respecting the elders is an important element of Asian education. Parents have a strong influence over their children’s lives. This influences teenagers’ choices for the future.
Teenagers’ aspirations are mostly job focused. Security is important, and ccompetition for top universities continues apace. Not only does it look good on their resumes, but going to the best university creates good ‘guanxi’ (relationships and connections). Because of guanxi, many influential people help out those from their universities to get good jobs. Therefore parents and students spend time and resources to make sure they have a good chance of getting into exclusive circles, and private tuition is a lucrative business.
Computer technology has developed quickly in East Asia. Broadband is readily available and cyber-space is very prominent in teenagers’ lives.
These computer-literate teenagers use cyberspace as an important aspect of socialising and entertainment, proven by the popularity of social networking website MySpace in India. South Korean teenagers frequently use PC-bang (an internet cafe chain in South Korea) solely to play computer games against each other.
Texting is also another frequent method of communication, where the phone-line providers offer numerous discount deals for students. Currently there are 1.1 billion mobile phone users in Asia Pacific, and in China alone 102.9 billion mobile SMS messages were sent in 2006.
The ‘group’ mentality is very strong in Asia, rather than stressing individuality. This can be seen in the identical school uniforms, which discourages anything eccentric. The length of girls’ hair is often regulated by the school in many Asian countries. To ‘fit-in’ is very important in Asian culture, because the importance of social acceptance. But teenagers also want to stand out. One way of this is to stand out with materials they own, through the latest mobile phone handsets or MP3 players for example.
The buying power of Asian teenagers in cities is huge. Brands and labels are very important for clothes and trainers. Asians like to fit in so they also like to be ‘in’ with fashion.
The brand value needs to be accepted. This is why marketing is very important, and Japanese companies use high profile A-class Hollywood actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Meg Ryan, Demi Moore and Sean Connery for their marketing campaigns and television adverts.
As many of the Asian teenagers’ aspirations are towards becoming successful and making it ‘big’, the West is often the place they look towards as a dream goal. Hollywood stars and Ivy League universities are sought after. This explains the popularity of the Hollywood Theme Park in Japan, as many Japanese teenagers queue to get in despite the high entrance fee charged. American fashion styles are often copied and these teenagers buy American chocolates and eat at Pizza Hut and McDonalds, unlike their parents who find Western food too sweet or too greasy for their tastes.
Idolisation of the West has decreased in some areas as the economic power of Asia is rising. Japanese fashion has always been popular but Korean films and television have becoming increasingly watched across Asia and South Korean pop stars become ever more popular.
Due to the increased use of cyberspace, Asian teenagers have a globalised outlook on life. A nationalistic tendency is likely to recede from the inflow of information and knowledge they receive on the internet and social norms are likely to be increasingly challenged. For example in Japan, it was normal for one person to spend their lifetime in one company but now they are starting to place their career development before the company’s profit.
Instead of being focused almost entirely on getting a good job and making money, attitudes are also changing towards enjoying life as well, such as taking holidays. Long-haul travel will develop over the next five years as Asians become more independent and confident in travelling further a field.
As economic growth continues apace the Hallyu is likely to be joined by increasing preferences for home grown brands and stars.