5 New Milestones Millennials Can Feel Good About
The Debrief: A perfect storm of historically low graduate wages, low wages in general actually, debt and sky high living costs have meant that young people today are, indisputably, having a pretty tough time. But, don't worry, there are some good things about being young in 2016.
What a time to be young eh? How many different labels have today’s generation of young people, millennials, been given by people older than them? 'Generation Rent', the 'Jilted Generation', the 'Selfie Generation', the 'Boomerang Generation' (because loads of us end up moving home after we leave) …the list goes on.
A perfect storm of historically low graduate wages, low wages in general, actually, debt and sky high living costs have meant that young people today are, indisputably, having a pretty tough time. If you’re in your 20s and currently trying to make it in the world as an adult, you could be forgiven for deciding not to check the news at all these days. Another day another depressing headline:
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Today the Guardian has hit us with another one: Five markers of adulthood have had to give up on. They point out that ‘some of us are not only unlikely to fulfil our more inventive childhood fantasies, but will fail to meet even the basic milestones of adulthood: a full-time permanent job, a life partner, a home of our own, a pension, having children and earning enough every month to put something into a savings account.’ It’s grim, I know, and the thing is, they’re not wrong. Things are really hard right now and young people today have it hard in economic terms.
NEWSFLASH: we have no money. Sure, it would be nice to own a house/have a pension/be able to contemplate having kids at some point but maybe the so-called ‘milestones’ of adulthood are just a bit out of touch with reality. Surely it’s more that goal posts have moved, our society has changed. Notice how it’s older people – the government, our parents and grandparents - who think buying a house is still is the key marker of being a successful, legit and together adult. The economic landscape of this country’s housing market says otherwise. Sorry, Guardian, but you’re actually just making a bad situation worse and making us prang out even more than we already are.
Home ownership isn’t the be all and end all. For instance, on the continent, in Germany for example, more people rent than own their own homes. Renting is more affordable and the properties are better quality, so maybe it’s time the media and government stopped making us feel bad about the fact that we can’t afford to buy and started focussing on the reality of our situation and working to make it better.
Don’t get me wrong - the government really needs to sort it out and there’s a lot to be angry about. But, rather than bang on about how totally shit things are and write yet another piece about how we’ll never own our own houses which will probably induce some kind of existential crisis in you, let’s talk about what we’ve got to celebrate.
So, here are 5 modern markers of adulthood that millennials can feel good about:
1. Travelling - Young People Are Seeing The World
Ok so we might not be able to buy a house, but the chances are we’ve seen a lot more of the world than people in the generations before us had at our age. According to the UN 20% of all international tourists, that’s nearly 200 million travellers, are young people.
Despite being a recession-battered generation, we are spending their money on experiences instead of buying stuff. Surely experiencing all the world has to offer is more valuable than collecting material possessions anyway?
If you’re savvy today and you keep an eye on Ryanair or EasyJet sales, you can get pretty much anywhere in Europe for under £50 return. It’s also cheaper than ever to go further afield.
2. Working For Yourself - This Is Generation DIY
We are Generation DIY; we aren’t afraid to go it alone. A record seventh of the UK’s workforce are now self-employed and, in the last decade, there has been a record rise in the number of under-35s who work for themselves.
Sure, we might earn, on average, 35 % less than the average fifty-something, lose sleep over the cost of housing and, inevitably, have done more than our fair share of unfair, unpaid internships but we haven’t descended into the depths of despair. No, we’ve taken matters into our own hands and more young people than ever are doing it for themselves.
3. Staying Healthy - Young People Today Drink And Smoke Less
Young people today drink, smoke and take drugs less than our parents. According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics more young people aged between 16 and 24 are opting to be teetotal, rising from 19 % in 2005, to 27 % in 2013. Binge drinking is also in decline.
You might have seen articles which have, as a result, labelled us the ‘Ab Fab Generation’ – i.e. we’re all like Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous, lamenting her mother’s partying and over spending. Obviously these articles were written by old people. It’s not that we’re boring or overly serious, although the cost of our education and housing is undeniably a factor because it means we’ve got less disposable income to spend on booze, fags and drugs. We’re more aware of the risks of drinking like a fish and smoking like a chimney, we want to stay well and keep our shit together.
4. This Is The Most Accepting & Tolerant Generation Yet
This generation is, in many ways, a frontier generation. We grew up online and, while digital life certainly has its downsides, this has also meant that our horizons were wide from the outset. We were exposed to a wide variety of different opinions and ways of life from a very young age.
As pollster Ipsos Mori’s Generations project shows, Generation Y are the least sexist generation in this country – we don’t uphold rigid or traditional views when it comes to gender roles in society. We are also the least likely to be homophobic.
5. We Stay Together - Finding A Long-Term Partner You Actually Like
Last year divorce rates in this country hit their lowest level in 40 years. We might be getting married later on and having more sexual partners before we settle down, but this doesn’t seem to be a bad thing because, when we do eventually tie the knot and get married, it seems we’re less likely to want out later in life. We don't spend our lives thinking the grass looks greener because we've been there, tried it, got the t-shirt and sown all of our oats.
The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the overall divorce rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1975. This drop in divorce has coincided with a rise in the number of couples who are choosing to get married, so it’s not simply the case that divorce is down because fewer people are getting married – this means more marriages are working.
More couples are choosing to live together, unmarried, with the number of families who are headed up by unmarried by cohabiting parents up by 30 %. The stats also show that while an estimated 42% of marriages do end in divorce now, it’s less likely that people who have got married since 2000 will end up divorcing.
So there you have it – we’re doing things our way and it’s working for us. Today’s youth are making the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it feels like you’re constantly wading through treacle, swimming upstream, fighting an uphill battle or any other number of metaphors which describe the feeling of spending half of your take home pay on rent every month but, at the end of the day, we are a resilient and resourceful generation.
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