Millenials get a bad rep.
If you ask most people to picture the Millenial generation, they’d probably think of bearded hipsters frittering away their days in coffee shops, cat video obsessed BuzzFeed addicts, drunk MDMA fuelled students falling out of nightclubs, polyamorous twentysomethings spending their evenings Netflix and chilling.
Self-entitled molly coddled overgrown children who think the world owes them a living – that’s the general impression.
As a card carrying member of the Millenial generation, I can attest that this is patronising nonsense (apart from the bit about the beards). This view of Millenials is made all the more infuriating when it comes from members of Generation X, the most cosseted generation there’s ever been.
I know it’s tough to feel sorry for young people and this all just sounds like a spoiled brat moaning about the grown-ups, but let’s compare Millenials to their parents’ generation to prove Millenials aren’t as overindulged as they’re made out to be.
Debt is the clearest illustrator of the generational void between Millenials and their parents.
Tuition fees are the main cause of this. Whereas Generation X were able to attend university for free, many graduates are now coming out of university with upward of £45,000 of debt.
To add insult to injury, Millenials are also the first generation in history for whom a university education is effectively a requirement for a decent job.
But a good education by no means guarantees employment. In fact, a third of graduates are spending up to six months after graduating working as unpaid interns.
Working unpaid as a graduate in London can cost almost £1,000 a month, pushing them further and further into debt.
This is something that tends to be downplayed by older generations.
A recent survey found that parents underestimate their children’s debt by around 50%.
House prices in the UK, particularly in London have skyrocketed over the last twenty years.
What has been great news for Generation X has been disastrous for Generation Y.
The average age of a first time buyer has risen by almost a decade since the 1960s, and this problem is particularly acute in London where most first time buyers are pushing 40.
A report by KPMG found that the average first time buyer in London requires a salary of around £77,000 per year. In other words, to be able to buy a house in London you need to firmly established in the top 10% of national earners.
So home ownership is out of reach, what about renting?
This is a more affordable option, but not by much.the UK has one of the most expensive private rental markets on the planet.
The Right to Buy scheme that enabled millions from Generation X to get on the housing ladder at a subsidised rate has led to a decimation in the social housing stock.
This has all culminated in many Millennials living at home well into their late twenties. In fact, more young adults are living at home now than at any point since the 1940s. Almost half of men between the ages of 18-34 are now living at home.
What was once mocked by Generation X is now a necessity for Generation Y.
Although many view millennials as being casual workers who enjoy freelancing and bouncing between jobs, the opposite is in fact the case.
Millennials actually value job security far more than their parents, but few are likely to enjoy secure employment.
After months of unpaid, or lowly paid, interning most millennials will be lucky to gain insecure employment with longer and more erratic hours than their parents.
But if they think their jobs are insecure now, they’re about to get a whole lot worse.
This might sound like a sci-fi fantasy, but the revolution in artificial intelligence is putting a large number of millennial jobs at risk.
Although this sounds rather alarmist when coming from the keyboard of a twenty-something writer, it has a little more punch when it comes from the chief economist to the Bank of England Andy Haldane who said that 15 million British jobs could be at risk from automation.
So, not only are milleniall’s jobs likely to be lowly paid, insecure with a poor work-life balance, they’re also likely to be made obsolete by a robot at some point in the next couple of decades.
Although the logical response to this situation would be for millennials to take advantage of our robot serfs, take early retirement and live like kings, that is not to be the case.
The Financial Times recently ran an article mocking Millenials for not saving £800 a month to go towards their pension.
Millennials reading the piece then looked at their bank balance and burst out laughing/broke down in tears.
Whereas current pensioners, who were able to retire at 63 or 65, condemn anyone even thinking of touching their pension pot, Millennials are likely to be in their seventies by the time they’re able to raid the state pension pot.
However, for most earners, this isn’t going to come even close to providing a standard of living equivalent to their parents generation.
Royal London estimates that Millenials on average incomes will be 77 by the time they can retire. Poorer workers are likely to be in their eighties.
All this excludes the fact that we’re drinking less and having less sex than our parent’s generation, we’re teetering on the edge of financial disaster, all the embarrassing drunken photos from our teenage years are threatening to come back and haunt us thanks to social media and the environment’s f*cked.
I’m not asking for you to feel sorry for Millenials, but they are the first generation in over a century to be worse off than their parents.
I’m not pointing fingers, or looking for someone to blame (but it sure as sh*t isn’t their fault!)
All I’m asking is that the next time you hear a millennial complain about how tough life is for young people, you show just a modicum of sympathy, and don’t, as one drunken middle aged party goer told me on a 5 am night bus on my way to work, tell us that we’ve never had it so good.