What an awful world we’re leaving the young
Seeing millennials in such dire straits, today’s adults might yet be able to turn around worrying trends
We tend to praise young people for their brightness and foresee a great future for them, but unfortunately, adults tend to bicker over that future. Too often we spout empty words about creating a better world for them. Too seldom do we actively attempt to reshape society in ways that might give them a chance to live up to their potential, and without undue pressure. As matters stand, today’s youngsters could turn out to be the first generation unable to outperform their parents.
Around the world, millennials are under crippling pressure. They’re embarking on lives of low-paying jobs and temporary contracts, rising housing prices and the financial burden of supporting an ageing population. In Spain, young people are reportedly bearing the brunt of rising costs and strained incomes. They have 30 per cent less disposable income than Generation X (those born between 1966 and 1980) had at ages 30 to 34. Widely accepted data in Britain indicate that young people’s financial progress is grinding to a halt. The Financial Times notes that, whereas every generation through modern history has enjoyed significantly higher living standards than its predecessor, English millennials in their 20s and 30s have barely any more to show than Gen X did in the same age range.
The blame is generally attributed to factors such as the tough employment environment, job insecurity and high housing costs. But today’s youth is under added, unnecessary pressure from global economic disruptions brought about by adult mismanagement.
Good schooling was once a guarantee of a secure and content adulthood. It no longer is, and now competition in the job market is getting fiercer all the time. On the upside, competition can force youngsters to improve. On the downside, not all of them can do so, and there have to be losers who are left behind.
Ageing populations are compounding the financial strain and meanwhile it’s become quite common for people as old as 30 to continue living with their parents, the so-called “delayed dependence” phenomenon of modern times. Once these still-young people do become independent, of course, they immediately have to shoulder the financial burden of looking after their elders. Morally, it’s a fair price to pay, but economically, it’s a daunting struggle.
Economic and political grappling between the United States and China and their respective allies creates more uncertainties for the young. The outcome will have tremendous implications for their future, making choosing sides not just about preferred ideology but rather financial wellbeing.
Again, it is the adult generation that allows major world and national affairs to be dictated on the basis of short-sighted interests with short-term gains. Current policies demonstrate no empathy for the young, as is most evident in the international community’s failure – or refusal in some cases – to come to terms with climate change. It is adults who initiate costly military campaigns and trade wars without fully considering the consequences for the more remote future.
The solutions have to come from the people creating or ignoring the problems. Today’s young people are fated to live in whatever world their forebears build for them. Unless we initiate sweeping improvements now, it will indeed be a terrible world they inherit.