Sorry We Ate It All, The Crumbs Are For You



Young people aren’t having a moan for nothing: It seems there really has been a 10% drop in their prospects compared to the opportunities their parents had when they were young.

The 2015 Intergenerational Fairness index reported a year-on-year decline in prospects for Generation Y across a range of indices including housing, education, health, income, debt and the financial burden of propping up the cost of caring for an ageing population.

We had no idea how well we were doing; I would cut from one job to the next in my twenties, leaving one on a Friday and starting somewhere else on a Monday. I saved to buy my first flat and managed it at age 24, in Belsize Park, once a cheap neighbourhood full of hippies, now an area exclusively for millionaires. I had no help from my parents and raised the downpayment from a very ordinary salary. House prices were just 3 times my annual wage, so I could buy a good property.

Wages for 22-29 year olds have stagnated since 2010, making home prices more than 10 times the annual income rate. The dream of owning is now impossible for many millennials. In the latest Budget, housing benefit, tax credits and educational maintenance grants for young people are all facing cuts, so things aren’t going to improve.

I’m reminded of the Victorians abroad. In Brian Thompson’s ‘Imperial Vanities’, an Englishman headed for Ceylon and cheerfully shot 1500 elephants before returning home. They thought they were impervious, and so did we. With bright futures ahead, who knew that a series of rollercoaster crashes would change the landscape so much? (It also damaged my generation later in life, but such surprises are easier to handle after experience).

They say all liberals eventually become conservatives, but it would take a hard heart indeed to agree with the EU’s punishment of Greece right now. Youth needs opportunity to flourish, and will be forced to travel to find such opportunities. London has been warned that it faces an emptying-out of talent, as has already happened in New York – but why would you stay in a place where it makes no difference how hard you work?



7 comments on “Sorry We Ate It All, The Crumbs Are For You”

  1. Jackie Hayles says:

    I work in a college of FE in Hastings and believe me, there is no carrot to dangle in front of teenagers who have a pragmatic and realistic view of what lies ahead for them. I too enjoyed the days of picking and choosing jobs, and of having a free degree, with a grant and transport costs thrown in. My students and my children don’t have those privileges and it seems insane not to invest in the future generation. No wonder so many aspire to appearing on Big Brother or being scouted on the local football pitches.

  2. Peter Dixon says:

    The clue is your statement: ‘house prices were 3 times my annual wage’. In the 1970’s you couldn’t get a mortgage – building societies were restricted to some ridiculous figure like 10 mortgages a month. My first mortgage was for 3 times my wage and a half of my wife’s.

    The fact is that most of the wealth of this country is based in property and inflated property values. Its like an iceberg continually storing up water. Released into the economy and there’s money for all sorts of things. Basically an awful lot of people who bought wisely through the 70’s and 80’s have been given a barrel full of money for doing nothing except living at home. Another way to look at it is that for every £10k your property gains in value you take £20k from your kids…

    Socialist rant over!

  3. Alan says:

    The image associated with this blog has left me thoroughly saddened.

  4. Alan Morgan says:

    Quite so. Mind you, I’m only about to become a home owner at 46, and my fiancees eldest son at exactly half that will be living there too. He’s a good lad, but oddly still that, stuck in a sort of teenage existence with a low paid job and no real belief that he could ever actually afford to live out. I’m unconvinced it’s going to get any better in the next ten years for the kids, and since we’ve got four of them between us under the roof all coming up to their teen years I fear we might be seeing a long, long wait till the house is child-free.

    Indeed, not living out, not really struggling, no real concept of having to worry at money doesn’t lend itself to the hard fire that forges the adult from the child. The three eldest of the four are definitely bright enough for uni in a few years, but will they be able to afford it? And there lies one of the commonest drives to leave home, and discover that for all the difficulties that once having done so the thought of moving back in with the parents inspires only horror.

    Between you and I, the kids are liable to be fucked when they’re older. And given they will still likely be in the parental walls not even as often as they might like to be.

  5. Mim says:

    I got a full grant when I went to uni, and got into publishing before the rise of the unpaid internship. Nowadays I probably wouldn’t be able to study for a degree unless it was with the OU – my brother did that – and certainly wouldn’t be able to work for free in order to get the experience for a full-time job. The growing bar to social mobility in our society makes me genuinely angry. (I’ve signed up as a contact with Arts Emergency, a great charity which helps young people from underprivileged backgrounds build a career in the media and arts. No point getting angry without getting active.)

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Free degree? You could get a partial fee reduction when I left high school, the percentage depending on your marks but that is long gone, I believe. It took me 20 years one way and another to finish. Even with partial qualifications I could get a job (one of the reasons I had to abandon the program) but later I finished with evening lectures and summer school. No light hearted campus high jinks in that, but I got where I needed to be. We have been worried about the younger generation for twenty years so I guess we’re worried about two generations now.

    As for Greece, I heard a woman, a dual citizen who visits her parents in Greece every year, say that she has been astounded at the money people made working at simple jobs and the pensions people received at a surprisingly young age. If that is true and what we hear about tax evasion is a fact then I think the Greeks have been living in delusion and the advent of reality will be painful but survivable. Perhaps I’m drifting to that self satisfied conservative realm of the aged.

  7. John Griffin says:

    What happened in Greece was nothing to do with the ordinary people and everything to do with staggering corruption of the elite, staggering corruption of the financial system, and a few people and banks making eyewatering profit out of misery. And now Wolfgang Scauble gets the Greeks to commit to paying billions into a fund managed by….W. Schauble. You couldn’t make it up.

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