We want it all and we have been raised to expect it all. Except our expectations are dramatically failing to match up to the reality of a post-recession world.
Job stability was the Holy Grail of our parents’ generation, and with that came the benefits of financial security, home ownership and a relatively affordable cost of living. The message of ‘aim to achieve job stability and personal prosperity will follow’ is one we were raised on, watching the enticing success of our Baby Boomer parents. Indeed, our start in life was more privileged than any previous generation due to the relative stability and wealth that our parents were able to offer, and we had expectations to match when we entered the workforce.
But times have changed and despite there currently being increasingly high levels of employment, the quality of the available jobs is very low. The levels of competition for these and more skilled jobs is incredible due to the massive expansion of the university sector, oversaturating the market with graduates. The issue of property prices is critical too as, at least in the South East of the UK, they have inflated into an uncontrollable bubble. The average millennial will pay £44,000 more in rent than their parents by their 30th birthday, and home ownership by that age has fallen 21% between the two generations.
There is no longer a trade-off, as when we work hard to gain our degrees and are then lucky enough to gain one of the elusive stable office jobs, we no longer reap the rewards. The social contract has been broken.
Despite this we demand more than any before us, and many of our elders have been vocal in criticising us for that. We have been accused of being lazy, fickle and ungrateful. We want work/life balance, flexibility and fulfilment. The debate between generations on this is raging – a wider and more positive dialogue needs to be established.
The question I pose, however, is how can we level such demands at a time when the average millennial must spend an unsustainable 57% of their salary on rent alone; how can we demand both career fulfilment and personal prosperity in this climate? How can we be both the first generation to be worse off than their parents in adulthood and also be so demanding of change in the workplace?
Perhaps this is our way of rebelling against that broken social contract, as we are simply no longer willing to play the games of the rat race as the cost-benefit makes it simply not worth it. Why work as hard as our parents for a substantially smaller reward? So instead we try to change the only area we have some influence over to be weigh more in our favour – the job component of that contract is raised up in status to make up for the lack of reward. Our aim of fulfilment and flexibility could stem from the current lack of ability to better ourselves despite our hard work.
Can you blame us?