The U.K.’s ONS is changing how it engages with Gen Z—and it’s working

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Gen Zers are known for being hard to get hold of. Ever tried calling one on the phone? 

It’s a problem that’s plagued the U.K.’s official statistics tracker, the Office of National Statistics. The public body is responsible for keeping an eye on several critical data points, including labor market activity, which has become increasingly difficult thanks to phone-shy Gen Z.

So, the ONS decided to change its approach. It raised the money it rewarded participants with and instead conducted face-to-face interviews, hoping that could increase response rates. Et voila—it worked. 

Money talks, and younger age groups have responded to the ONS’s new methods for the Labour Force Survey, which looks at the state of employment within the U.K. and is the country’s largest household study.  

The cash rewards, in addition to reaching out to more young people and doing so repeatedly, have increased responses across all age groups, Liz McKeown, the director of economic statistics at the ONS, told Bloomberg in a report published Tuesday

She added that the new plan with a slew of “recovery” measures was helping drive changes. That included prioritizing households with young adults and expanding the sample size.

The statistics body also used paid and unpaid business surveys, for which the monetary incentive is an unconditional £25 ($31.4) per household and an additional £25 for households that finish the survey, an ONS spokesperson told Fortune.

Since the new method took effect, the average number of household interviews has risen to 1,539 between January and March, compared to 1,168 between last October and December. 

That bodes well for the Bank of England, which makes key monetary policy decisions based on these numbers. The central bank has been using average earnings figures and other labor market indicators to understand the U.K.’s economic state of play.  

There’s no overstating the importance of official statistics. They’re crucial to getting a pulse-check on the U.K.’s economy as data on the labor market helps banks when setting interest rates. But lately, employment data has gotten unreliable due to a shrinking pool of respondents, which ultimately forced ONS to abandon the century-old method in favor of these new techniques instead. 

Gen Zers, many of whom are in their early careers or are just entering the job market, have been especially tricky to approach for data.

“If you think about the ones who are the least time rich, they tend to be the younger people,” ONS’s Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics production and analysis, told Bloomberg

While the busy, unresponsive Gen Z is a big reason why ONS has had to rethink its data collection, the new measures will also apply to other age groups, a spokesperson told Fortune. The only difference? The “follow-up element” plays a bigger role among younger respondents.

The statistics office has refrained from using online methods for data collection until recently—it’s now trying out a new system that includes a quarterly dataset with 165% more individuals than earlier.

The U.K. isn’t alone in facing troubles reaching its youth population—in the U.S., the problem has been getting worse, especially with young adults who don’t live with their parents

It’s clear that Gen Z needs more of a nudge to participate in labor surveys than past generations. While it looks like it’s working for now, Gen Alpha could come along and respond to things differently from its predecessors.  

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