The statistics that put lives of a whole generation on hold
Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30
We want to buy our first home. We want to get married. We want to have a career. The problem is, many of us can't right now and our choices are slipping away because we can't afford to make them. Career, property, wedding, babies - my mum had them all by time she was my age. I still live like a student - so what happened? It's the economy, stupid.
A new UK study has shown young people are suffering the worst economic prospects for generations. A CSO report last autumn paints a horribly similar picture.
The figures show that the youngest households have 10 times less wealth than the oldest households.
Households where the reference person is under 35 make up 20.1pc of the sample. These households have a 3.5pc share of net wealth. Households where the reference person is 65 and over make up 20.1pc of the sample. These households have a 32.5pc share of net wealth.
Even as the economy improves, years of economic malaise have left us unemployed, underemployed or just lower on the career ladder than we had hoped to be at this age.
The unemployment rate for younger workers has generally been higher than for older workers throughout the recession and small recovery, and those who are working have likely started off lower on the ladder - and making less money - than they might in a better economy. The youth unemployment rate in Ireland averaged 18.48pc from 1983 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 31.1pc in June 2012. It still stands at 19.8pc.
An analysis from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) painted a picture of the social situation of young people aged from 18 to 29 across the EU, and found 42pc of young people in Ireland were living with their parents.
So it looks like we're wedged between mum and dad on the sofa rather than getting married. The average age of grooms in 2014 was 35, while the average for brides was 33, up from 32.8 in 2013. HSE statistics show that the average age of an Irish woman having a first child now stands at 32.1 years.
In 2005, the average first-time buyer in Ireland was about 29, but according to Real Estate Alliance (REA), this figure is up to 35 and still rising.
The new income requirements of 3.5 times salary, combined with increased deposits introduced by the Central Bank last year, price most of us out of the housing market. Still countless surveys suggest the traditional life signposts are what we all generally aspire to. What's changed is that basic goals such as getting married, having a secure job and owning a home have drifted further out of our reach.
We are forced to rely on the bank of mum and dad but people then say we are mollycoddled, pampered brats who should learn to stand on our own two feet. The reality is that we're the generation straddled with zero-hour contracts, unemployment and the prospect of spiralling house prices. January is resolution time, but what kind of resolutions can I make when the milestones of a wedding and buying a first home are out of financial reach for yet another year? There's certainly much less stigma attached to cohabiting without getting married now than there was 30 years ago, but it's the financial cost of the 'Big Day' that's putting me off.
Ever since my college protest days I've often despaired at the apathy of my generation.
There are so many angry people, but underneath there is an undercurrent of hopelessness, the feeling that there is nothing that you can do to change a system in which affordable housing and a decent-paying job is a distant dream for so many.
But there are so many stories that deserve to be told, and politicians need to hear them. Perhaps if we garner enough support they might even deign to meet with us, to look us in the face and maybe even listen. It's time to put young people on the priority list. And yes, we do vote.
Maybe preferences for these kinds of life milestones will eventually change, too, as new norms evolve out of economic necessity. But in the meantime, don't malign us for "rejecting" milestones that are quite simply out of our reach.