Generation Y are suffering from the recession – don’t tell us we’re not

Caroline Mortimer

137263008 166x300 Generation Y are suffering from the recession   dont tell us were notIf some of the more hysterical right wing papers are to be believed there is only one type of young person; the angry, feckless yob that graces the front of the tabloids carrying various electronic goods looted from Argos.

The proverbial ‘feral youth’; they parasitically suck money out of good, honest taxpayers who had the good sense and common decency not to leave school in a recession.

However, the good readers of The Independent were introduced to the second type by Sophie Heawood last week: the spoilt and self-serving graduate. They may be a bit better educated but they are just as entitled, parasitical and even more deserving of contempt for their selfish unwillingness to work for free or to shut up about it.

The childless under 25s get less money from Job Seeker’s Allowance, we aren’t entitled to working tax credits, we’re getting more and more in debt as each academic year passes and the fact that we apparently don’t ‘count’ in minimum wage law means unpaid internships suppress graduate starting salaries.

The left argue that the young people who complain about their lot in this scenario are just being selfish and self-involved because ‘we’re all in this together’ and everyone is being equally screwed.

However, as bad as it is to be over 25 in this country at the moment; with retroactive pension changes, cuts to any and every public service and their own rather grim unemployment figures it is largely the fault of one outmoded and out of touch government and a rotten economy.

The problems facing young people, on the other hand, are far more structural. The rates of pay and benefits for young people are nothing new. When the Blair government passed their minimum wage law in 1999 they conveniently graded their wage tiers based on age rather than a more fair and direct measure of experience.  Similarly, the proposed cut to housing benefit builds on the restrictions placed by the Shared Accommodation Rate during the last Conservative government in 1995 (and never revoked by the Labour government) which means we can only claim for a room in a shared flat or house.

The older generation, whilst they were still being paid for their entry level work, have had time to (presumably) acquire capital; they have a place to live, they have a full time job and they have the wisdom that is supposed to come from age (or so I’ve been told anyway). Should this all go belly up, which can and has happened, it’s right that the state should jump in and act like a safety net. However, it is not right to deny that same safety net to those who’ve not had the opportunity to acquire any capital of their own.

So what is it about reaching that magically quarter of a century that suddenly makes you worth society’s time? Why is it that at 24 years 11 months you are still regarded as hysterical teenager what they’re given yet just two months later you are entitled to complain?

The interns mentioned in Heawood’s article do sound like prize idiots and I have met a fair few in my albeit short (and often unpaid) working life who are equally stupid (with the possible exception of the person who resigned from an internship to work on their novel- given the success of Fifty Shades of Grey ; they’d probably make more money selling it as an e-book).  However, they do not represent the majority.

I complain because I did what I was told. I worked hard at school, I saved half my wages and my EMA money to fund my work experience endeavours, I went to a good university and got a good degree whilst doing all my extracurricular activities alongside. I even did an unpaid, part-time, internship. However, because I don’t live in London and I haven’t worked out how to grow a money tree yet, I can’t work for free and, ergo, it’s harder for me to get a job.

We do not expect to have the world handed to us on a plate; we just want to be cut some slack. Of course doing an arts degree doesn’t directly prepare you for the real world, I know my knowledge of ritualistic cat murders in Paris won’t prepare me for anything more than a whimsical frame for a blog post but the soft skills of communication, organisation and research will make me better at my graduate job than a stranger that walked in from the street. I can live with the Shared Accommodation Rate (pun not intended) and I will work for a low wage provided. I can still support myself but I won’t be belittled or exploited.

I can handle not being given a leg up, but I will not allow myself to be kicked back down.

Young people have legitimate cause for complaint but we are not respected enough by society to voice them. The coalition government may be waging a class war but the middle class and working class are being torn apart by an age war brewing between them. Instead of telling young people to ‘shut up and get behind the cuts movement like everyone else’, please acknowledge that they are a separate case.  Young and old are all suffering but the young are being singled out because we are viewed as a soft target as most voters don’t care what happens to us.

Even the rich dads’ girls and boys who can afford a ‘volunteer job’ for months on end don’t deserve to be exploited; just because you can work for free doesn’t mean you should have to.

As a member of the graduating cohort of 2012, through no fault of my own, I am projected to be poorer than my parents; can someone tell me why I shouldn’t complain about that?

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  • 12758

    I can’t understand how anyone of my age can possibly criticise today’s graduates in the way you describe. When I went to university, I never needed loans (education was free), in fact I even got a full grant. During the holidays I could sign on and get unemployment benefit. On graduating (debt free) I applied for only 2 jobs, was offered both and took the slightly more highly paid one. The concept of ‘internships’ was totally unknown. So anyone of my generation criticising you ought to count themselves as lucky to have been born when they were.

  • 12758

    Yet when I look at prime ministers they seem to be appointed at younger and younger ages.

    Stanley Baldwin 57 and 68
    Neville Chamberlain 68
    Clement Attlee 62
    Winston Churchill 66 and 77
    Anthony Eden 58
    Harold Macmillan 64
    Alec Douglas-Home 60
    Harold Wilson 48 and again 58
    Edward Heath 53
    James Callaghan 64
    Margaret Thatcher 54
    John Major 47
    Tony Blair 44
    Gordon Brown 56
    David Cameron 43

    I think I can see a slow downward drift in those figures.

  • Thom Pickwick

    the youth and the elderly will always be stiffed by the kind of criminal government that britain HAS ALWAYS HAD. it’s up to us to take matters into our own hands and tell these career criminals and mafia-associates where they can stick it. no more voting for them – it only encourages them.
    the power is in our own hands once we stop giving it away to them!

  • katie anderson

    Human beings are innately interdependent and that is why we are innately pro-social. If society is a savage competition, then the particular society is doing it wrong. Soceities are a universal human artifact because society is generally more nice (beneficial) than savage.

  • Silas Coker

    Wow. Dog-eat-dog world is it? There is competition in life and evolution, but there is also cooperation and caring. In your ideological blindness you haven’t actually understood the author of this article.
    By “I did what I was told” she means she worked hard, did well at university and cannot be criticised on these counts , not that she is a ‘rule follower’. Talking about a ’sweet, easy life’ is nice polemic but it is an insult to people like the author of the article you are commenting on, who seems to want simply to get by with hope for the future. The streets are *not* full of gold for ‘anyone who really wants it’ (that is the obvious, self serving myth perpetuated by rich people), they are full of gold for a lucky few who already have money, and a lucky (very) few who somehow wind up with it.
    Lastly, there is an inherent contradiction in your comment, because you make a moral judgement by calling her a ’spoiled kid’, and then say that life is essentially amoral and that the only thing that really matters is wealth and power. If you think the world is amoral, so do many of us; however it is a contradiction in terms to assert that that is the way it should be!


    If he wasn’t, he should have been.

  • SB_UK

    Good article.
    I absolutely (as a 40-something) agree.

    Over the last 30 or 40 years house price increases made the very average (my wife and myself are less than national average wage earners) – very rich.

    Each time we sold up to move from University town to University town – the money we made on our sales – increased.

    Each time it increased – there was no real feeling of success (because the money wasn’t earned) – instead – I can remember repeating over and over to my wife, how it’d (these silly increases!) end up in disaster.

    My wife didn’t believe me – and was happy enough with the profit made.

    Now – all of the neighbours I have currently (4 families in total) – have children who, at best, have to live many miles away (somewhere affordable relative to Cambridge) – or remain at home.

    Awaiting a global economic crash – so we can press the reset button and start again.

    Life is very difficult for you chaps – with us chaps (the over-30’s) bearing the blame.

    It’s not so much that we made the conscious decision to drive property prices up – however – we didn’t (as we should have done) kick up a fuss, as it happened.

  • alpspitz1

    Nobody passed the buck of debt onto the next generation better than the last government: They shelled out and wasted money in billions over 13 years and left us in a debt that, had there been some prudence applied, would not have necessitated many of the drastic cuts that face nearly all, today. It was they that were planning grandiose schemes we couldn’t pay for right up to their loss of power and resulting in the scandalous letter left by them: ‘Sorry, no money left’. It was they who preached the education mantra then imposed tuition fees, they who allowed the banks to do as they liked. They should be subject to an enquiry they they’re so fond of demanding and forced to apologise for causing much of this misery.

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