Saturday 24 September 2016

The Weekly Read: A defence of Millennials

With millennials being described as narcissistic, lazy and entitled, Elizabeth O’Malley suggests that young people are more than a stereotype

Elizabeth O'Malley

Published 02/11/2015 | 14:01

Photo: Elizabeth Hahn/ Flickr
Photo: Elizabeth Hahn/ Flickr

Hands up if you can’t stand the word ‘millennial’.

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There’s a good reason to. Books describing our generation also call us “Generation Me” , “Excellent Sheep”  and the “Entitled Generation”.

The best summation of why millennials suck was a viral blog post that circulated a couple of years ago called ‘You Are Not Special’ by Wait But Why.

The post argued that the reason we are unhappy is because we all think we are special and expected to find our dream career the moment we leave college.

So basically, we’re entitled.

It is frankly ridiculous to generalise about the largest generation in history, spanning millions and millions of people born between 1982 and 2000, all over the world. Are some young people narcissistic, lazy and entitled? Absolutely. But so are people in every generation.

However I could maybe think of a few reasons that millennials in Ireland might be unhappy, apart from the fact that not everyone realises how special and amazing we are.

How about the fact that most people in our generation will never own a home?

We spend much longer than every previous generation living with our parents, and it’s not because we love the company or Mum’s cooking. 

We cannot afford to pay sky-rocketing rents.

We especially can’t afford to pay rent when many of us are taking unpaid internships in order to get experience to land an actual paying job.

Young people who have paying jobs are finding more and more of their pay cheques are going towards covering rent.

Every day young people are being economically evicted as landlords raise rents by hundreds of euro.

And those who can still afford to rent cannot afford to save the deposit in order to obtain a mortgage.

Or how about the fact that these so-called secure careers that everyone says we should get, rather than reaching for the stars, doesn’t exist anymore?

Even jobs in banks tend to be hired through recruiting firms, placing new employees on temporary contracts with little or no benefits such as paid sick leave, or even guaranteed employment for more than six months.

We also earn less money. The median salary for graduates has fallen. Not fallen in real terms, actually fallen.

The Gradireland Graduate Salary and Recruitment Trends Survey shows that in 2008 the median salary was €27,000. In 2015 it is €24,000.

The relative increase in the cost of living compounds the reduction in earnings. Food, fuel, public transportation and rent are all more expensive now than seven years ago.

You can forget about benefits as well. Where once health insurance, education allowance and pensions were included as well as a salary, these are becoming increasingly rare.

We are the generation of internships, temporary employment contracts and freelancing. Let’s also not forget the fact that we have to fight and work hard to get any job at all.

When our parents joined the workforce, a bachelor’s degree pretty much guaranteed you a job.

Nowadays everyone and their cat has a masters degree. If the degree arms race continues we’ll all be expected to have multiple masters or all get PhDs.

Even if undergraduate education is ‘free’ (if you can call €3,000 a year free), masters degrees are not, with most costing at least €6,000.

If we do not have parents willing or able to pay this much, we have to take out a loan or spend a year or more saving money.

It also seems that everyone else is more qualified than we are. All your friends have internships under their belts, or speak multiple languages, or have won awards.

They all have a star-spangled CVs. They all apply to at least ten jobs a day. They all network, and that’s only when talking about people our own age. We’re also competing against people who have actual relevant experience within an industry.

The idea that we think we should be handed our dream career is laughable. There has never been a generation who has to work as hard as we do to even get a job, let alone a job we actually want.

Yes, we’re special alright. We are probably the first generation in recent history who will do worse than their parents in terms of achieving life milestones or financial wellbeing.

If you read articles by baby boomers you’d have to assume that the reason that youth unemployment is so high, or that we aren’t leaving our parents homes, or that we aren’t getting married, is because we’re just not trying hard enough.

We apparently expect things to be handed to us and are shocked when that turns out not to be the case.

I wonder which generation lead to the biggest recession this country has ever seen. I wonder which generation bought houses they couldn’t afford and spent money they didn’t have.

Maybe what we need is not patronising advice from someone complaining that we think too much of ourselves, but for them to recognise we’re fighting a battle where the odds have been stacked against us by their generation.

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