Thoughts

Are we graduating into a new era of the Lost Generation?

As thousands of soon-to-be graduates leave university for pastures new this summer, are the new crops of graduates destined for a life of disappointment and unfulfilled dreams in an economy that continually turns away the talents of an ambitious but ultimately debt-ridden, downward mobility-stricken generation?

We are told university is the gateway to success and a better life, a life which will enable financial security and greater job prospects. Not anymore. The rigours and strains of unpaid internships (if you’re fortunate enough to have one), having to live at home because you can’t afford a mortgage, the worry you might never earn as much as your parents did. These are all realities slowly destroying the ambitions of a future generation of workers.

Welcome to Graduate Britain: A country where it is no longer surprising to hear of PhD graduates working in Starbucks, whilst others wait tables, fill temp vacancies and sign on for long periods of time. The white collar jobs, it seems, are no longer a guarantee for my generation.

Anyway, all this doom and gloom reminded me of the term ‘Lost Generation’, which was first popularized by the legendary writer Ernest Hemingway in reference to the loss of talent caused from the deaths of many artists fighting in World War One. And whilst my generation has never had to experience such atrocities, the student graduate post- 2008 is joining a different kind of Lost Generation where the prospects of gaining your dream job are becoming increasingly bleak- regardless of how qualified you are.

Yes, youth unemployment in the UK may not be as bad in deficit-ridden countries like Spain and Greece, but according to government figures in August 2013, youth unemployment statistics showed that 973,000 people aged between 16-24 were out of work. That’s a lot of people. And if that wasn’t bad enough, according to a report from the Prince’s Trust, 1 in 10 young people felt as though they had nothing to live for in a country labelled ‘Broken Britain’.

Of course, not all blame can be directed at government and the economy. That would be shortsighted to suggest. As a generation that has been raised in an era awash with an exciting blend of rich and vibrant technological products and services, many new industries are flourishing. This has been particularly evident through a number of tech start-ups created by young people. Then again, not everyone sets out to be an entrepreneur and many students simply want a career in an industry of their choice!

Maybe the high expectations students now have of gaining jobs in more competitive industries has caused many to be let down by their own aspirations rather than necessarily being lost as many industries used to previously be the preserve of those from more exclusive backgrounds- and arguably still are.

So is my generation ‘lost’? Potentially, and if government incompetence towards youth unemployment reforms continues, maybe a new term needs coining. Perhaps the ‘Forgotten Generation’ is more appropriate.

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