Fiona Wilson gives a mother’s perspective on the dismal legacy of the baby boomers, and wonders why the younger generation is so acquiescent
Seven years ago I sat in the audience at a UCAS meeting with my daughter. The speaker there was encouraging as many as possible school-leavers to go to university. The government target for university entry was 50%.
He showed graphs and statistics to support his remarks which projected the resulting favourable future incomes that a university degree would procure. Like other baby boomers that went to university, his fees and maintenance costs whilst there will have been paid for by the state. Since that talk university tuition fees have gone up to £3,000 and now £9,000. Graduates who did as they were encouraged are leaving with debts of around £30,000 and finding that their degree, which many others have too, in this job-scarce country, is of little value.
Last year my daughter wanted to enter the property market. We knew the price of buying was formidable. She, like many in her generation is now renting. Who from? A baby boomer who is pocketing the income for which she is working.
Now the unions (headed by the baby boomers) are suggesting that the youngsters strike along with their older colleagues against proposed pension changes. Is this another trick? Quite likely. When those over 50 retire, who will have to work to pay for all the public sector employees to enjoy enhanced pensions, having paid relatively little into the scheme, for the rest of their lives (often for over 30 years apiece)? The youngsters.
Why is it that, despite this unfairness, the younger generation are so accepting of the detrimental changes that are imposed upon them? I see a number of possible reasons:
- Unlike the older generation, who have paid off their mortgages and have the luxury of time afforded by retirement, the younger generation have little time to shout and be heard. The more vocal and able have jobs. They are working hard in an attempt to get where their elders are. Those that are able to attempt this do not have the time to shout and object.
- Young people generally do not have the confidence to shout and fight for their corner. However, older people will have developed confidence whilst working during a boom time. Their significant status at work and their resulting financial well-being has given them the impression that it is they are “in charge”. The voice of youngsters is oppressed.
- Each generation mixes largely with those of its own age. The older generation reinforce their views with each other. Meanwhile, the younger together accept that they are on a par with their contemporaries. Through not discussing the situation with their elders, they are not aware that the economic situation was much more favourable a generation ago. The younger generation are accepting of their fate.
- The economic situation that has been handed to the younger generation is dire. The government draws up its income and expenses account on a cash basis. There are enormous liabilities which have been promised but for which the first interest and capital payment has not yet been made. When they enter the equation, youngsters will find they have even more to pay than they envisage. Youngsters are ignorant of this poisoned legacy.
- Although young people find their life-style gruelling, they assume that this is how the previous generation found it, and they trust that they will achieve in the same way that the older generation did. We are exploiting their child-like trust.