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?