Ah, the past. Wasn’t everything much better back then?
The answer is emphatically no. Between product safety laws, societal and legal tolerance, environmental protections, and fashion trends – one can very astutely claim that we’ve never had it so good.
While a lot has been (justifiably) left to the history books, there is a growing realisation that the younger generation will not be as prosperous as their parents. This generation will be condemned to lower incomes than the last. What’s more, elders are continuing to cushion their already considerable wealth.
Part of this shift is a direct result of the Great Recession. After various financial institutions – some of which provide questionable benefits to society – ran themselves into the ground, the government had to step in and provide billions to prop them up. At the heart of the crisis were shady mortgages. Mortgages given out to baby boomers with little more than a checkbox saying “I’ll pay, I promise!”
Shortly afterward, the government justified cuts to benefits for the young under the guise of debt reduction. Debt that had shot up thanks to the bailouts. At the same time, house prices were skyrocketing, and had been for the past 15 years. David Cameron famously said “we’re all in this together” – true, but some were sitting in a £1.2 million two-bedroom house, while others were living with 8 people in a 3 bedroom abode. The government also locked pensions, ensuring their comfy rise.
Between 2008 and 2015 incomes for those under 30 fell by 7%, while those 60 plus saw an 11% rise according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Another complicating factor is that there are a number of people over the retirement age still in work, but also collecting their pension. This has had the effect of keeping jobs closed to the younger generation.
Unemployment is at a record low, but that alone doesn’t mean lives are getting any easier. Higher living costs are a growing drain. Increased transport costs, rent, and food prices mean less and less money gets saved toward investment like a home, and this has only been made worse by a fall in incomes.
The older generations’ wealth isn’t so much concentrated in bank accounts, however. Most of it is locked up in houses, the prices of which have grown exponentially since Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses in the 1980s.
Brexit looks set to make things worse, too. Any drop in economic activity almost certainly leads to layoffs, with the young disproportionately affected in a shrunken economy. Facing years of uncertainty, businesses will be less likely to hire or make investments, squeezing the young even further.
The future looks bleak. With little government support for the youth, stagnant wages, fewer jobs, and sky high house prices, the older generations are the only ones benefitting from the present economic situation. The one bright side is that one day, millennials will be in charge of the government, overseeing such as as pensions and the housing crisis.