The news, the real news and the fake news, is constantly full of accusations and contradictions about the different generations. The younger generations are incapable and snowflakes. Whilst the older generations had it so much harder. These ideas are then thrown around and confused as young people are hit with crippling university debt and obscenely high house prices. At least for the older generations who went to university, they were guaranteed a job. This article is going to explore the facts, figures and myths surrounding the different generations to explore how none of really ‘have it easy’.
Millennials / Generation Z (1977 to now)
The current ‘young’ generation are millennials and generation Z. This refers to a very large part of the working population. Millennials and now generation Z are being blamed for many economic issues, for being hapless and not being able to deal with our own problems. This includes the older generations saying that millennials and generation z can’t change their own light bulbs or re-fuse a plug. As a cusp member of both generations, I can attest to not being able to re-fuse a plug. However, no one has ever taught me to re-fuse a plug.
However, not being able to re-fuse a plug becomes a very minute issue for millennials and generation Z when we are faced with crippling university debt, and very little chance of ever owning a house. The average house price in England (January 2018) is £234,794. To buy a house, most banks will ask for 20% deposit, which most young people do not have. In 1998, just 20 years ago, the average house price was £62,903.
These numbers are matched with record numbers of graduates who aren’t able to get graduate level jobs. Many graduates will go into retail jobs or into the service industry and have to complete further training or internships just to get the same job someone will have got straight out of university 10 years ago.
Despite this, our generation is living in a time of technological advancement meaning that we are more adept to deal with technology. We are also a lot more aware of the damage we are doing to the planet (as a society). We are accepting and trying to repair this dying world, which although we played our part in killing, was not solely our fault.
However, this generation does take a lot of the blame without much fight. The older generations and Piers Morgan can say what they like and call us snowflakes and there is no massive uproar, there is not currently a political party fighting for the youth vote, and when there is, young people are still not interested in fighting the political battle. As a generation, we need to stand up for ourselves, get off our phones and shout down parliament until they make our generation – the generation.
Baby Boomers / Generation X (1946 to 1976)
The generation before millennials and generation Z are the baby boomers and generation X. These are your parents and possibly grandparents. These are the politicians you see on TV and the CEOs of major businesses. These are the generations that did not have to pay university tuition fees and were given grants to study. If you were born in 1965, went to university in 1983, graduated in 1986 you could buy a house for only £35,647. For a millennial or generation Z, the deposit alone would be this or more.
If we look at the baby boomers and generation X regarding sexual freedom, we see a very different story to what we see now. Homosexuality was illegal in the UK up until 1967, and in the next 20 years homosexuality wasn’t exactly favoured as the AIDs epidemic swept the nation in the 1980s. Today, we live in an era where homosexuality (at least in the UK) is celebrated with colour and love. Where people will travel across the country to celebrate pride.
Where we have unlimited access to screens and technology, the baby boomers and generation X had next to nothing. We can send a text to America and get a reply within seconds. For this generation, when BT were first installing phone lines, they had to share their phone line with six of their neighbours – as a child, I can remember my dad accidentally picking up the phone to my call, imagine if that was Mr. Johnson four doors down. Similarly, until 1993 there were only 3 channels.
These generations also saw a lot of political activism, in 1984 alone seeing the famed miner’s strike, British Leyland strike, and the shipyard occupation. These strikes all happened during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. The amount of political upheaval during this time caused the public to turn against their leader and her actions.
Silent Generation (Born before 1945)
The Silent Generation, on the other hand, were the generation who put her into power. They believed in her push for change and her right to buy schemes. Margaret Thatcher was a believer in social mobility through hard work. If you were on the ladder, you had a chance to move up it. If you weren’t you’d struggle to join it.
This generation grew up in a time of austerity, rationing and make do and mend. This can be reflected in this generations more conservative opinions. Similarly, this generation was a lot more aware of our countries class system. Although social mobility was possible in this time, changing class was a lot more difficult. Society was geared to subsidise and help the middle classes, such as when you were buying a house you could claim back mortgage tax relief – claiming back the tax when you bought a house.
This system helped Margaret Thatcher to promote her ‘right to buy’ scheme in her election manifesto. This scheme meant that if you were living in a rented council property, you could pay a much-reduced fee and buy the house. Many people took up this offer and were able to become home owners. The money that came from the right to buy scheme was not then reinvested into new council housing as it should have been. This meant that when the next generation grew up, there was a shortage of social housing for them. There is still a shortage of social housing today, which is why there is so many new homes being built on the edges of towns and in small villages.
For this generation, technology would have been very basic. There would have been refrigerators, and to communicate with anyone it would have been by letter, or by calling the exchange through a telephone box.
All of the generations have had very different experiences of life. They’ve all had different hardships, different problems to overcome. There is not a single have-it-all generation. Just because there is now the technology to talk about everything, does not mean that our generation is doing any worse than any other previous generation. Would you be prepared to give up your iPhone, your social media, your daily Starbucks and those Topshop shorts you just had to have for a poorer diet, lower wage, no access to technology but you get to buy a house? We might not be able to buy a house when we turn 21, but we can always dream of it from our parent’s attic conversions, as we slowly teach them about the positive sides of equity release and how it could help us to finally move out.