Generation Y are suffering from the recession – don’t tell us we’re not
If 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?Tagged in: benefits, Blair, fifty shades of grey, generation y, jsa, labour, recession, under 25s, university, young people
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