The young are giving up hope

The young are giving up hope. By John Oxley in the UK.

It’s not that younger generations are particularly workshy or lazy, but more that they feel the prizes promised for a lifetime of graft have become a phantom.

A new survey from Opinium shows that only a third of young people will achieve their career aspirations, and only a quarter think they will earn more than £30,000 (roughly the current median wage) at the end of the next decade. …

Wages have stagnated in real terms since the financial crisis. The under 40s have never really known an era of increasing wages. At the same time, they have seen house prices become unaffordable in much of the country … Many have paid expensive tuition fees and found the promise of professional jobs at the end of it lacking.

It’s a common refrain to hear people say that on every metric they have outperformed their parents — but have ended up feeling poorer.

Traditional right wing messaging fails because aspirations have been dashed:

It’s hard to make a demographic which is excluded from accruing capital support a capitalist system. It’s hard to make a cohort which sees no point in ambition support a party that believes in aspiration. It’s even harder to do this when you also represent the big winners of this change — the older buy-to-let landlords who rode the property boom into prosperity and the NIMBYs who see any attempt to build more houses as an intrusion on their idyll. …

There’s a bigger problem too. As younger people feel like they are losing more and more of their stake in society, there’s a chance they become more radical in their responses. When it feels impossible to win the game, or even do reasonably well from it, there is a temptation to flip the board over.

The hopelessness and lack of optimism young people feel could easily turn into anger. As the ranks of the frustrated grow, there is a chance that it spills into extreme politics, either of the right or the left. Already polling shows that the Zoomer generation are more open to autocracy than their forebears. Others will just check out of society completely. The Opinium survey revealed one in ten young people intends to never start working. For the more dynamic, emigration seems an increasingly discussed option among the country’s young. …

At the moment many look at what is on offer — expensive housing, expensive childcare, stagnating wages and a precarious retirement — and feel they are getting a very raw deal. …

It’s easy to dismiss the apathetic youth as entitled and lazy, but a generation which enjoyed an expanding middle-class, huge economic growth and a house price boom runs the risk of looking down on those who face a very different world now. Our political system is based on the idea that hard work will deliver personal enrichment and a better quality of life. When that bond begins to break, it’s hard to avoid the consequences.

Central banks, and letting bureaucrats set the price of money, has a lot to do with this situation. They determine who gets rich and when assets increase in price. Oh look, they’ve done very well for themselves, and the system is now breaking down!