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.

Thoughts

Why Are Young People So Disillusioned With 21st Century Politics?

When Nick Clegg infamously retracted his promise to scrap tuition fees, it dented the moral fabric of the whole of Westminster, not just his party and, in due course, alienated young people.

There are distinct differences in the types of political disillusionment among youth voters. These are divided between deciding not to vote through an educated response to a political topic, such as the expenses scandal, with the other side deciding not to vote due to having no political opinion or, more disconcertingly, simply not caring. That said, with only 43% of the 18-24 age group registering their vote in the 2015 election (the lowest from all age groups), young people’s engagement with politics is disturbingly low.

Whilst one must not dwell on statistics alone, they are certainly a good indication of illustrating just how low youth participation in politics is becoming. To some extent, I see the rise of cheap popular culture, for instance, reality television and the expansion of Sky, playing a role in lowering the engagement levels of the youth. This modern day celebrity-obsessed culture has targeted the youth market to such an extent that many young voters are so passively consumed by their products that they hold opinions on television shows, such as 90210, without having any views on political events, e.g. Syria, which can create a coma of ignorance. In response to this argument, many would say ignorance is bliss, and to an extent, I agree.  However, we live in a time where such an attitude towards political issues will only create an increasingly stagnant political system.

Although I have been critical of certain youth voters in my age group, I do however sympathise with them. The raising of tuition fees was a huge slap in the face for the youth vote. In addition, those who choose not to engage in political affairs have arguably been disillusioned by being bought up in an era of New Labour that promised so much but instead proved to be a mere extension of Thatcher’s free market policies. Since the 1980s, the income inequality gap has only widened further whilst the austerity measures introduced by the coalition government are only worsening future job prospects for the youth of today. Unemployed youths across the country may see little value in investing their time voting for a political party that, in turn, has invested so little in their communities over the years. It is no wonder that many potential youth voters have lost interest in a system which only mentions them concerning their retirement age or increasing tuition fees.

A counter argument could also be made against political apathy among young voters if one points to the demonstrations that occurred in response to the raising of tuition fees, as well as the Occupy movement, both of which attracted young protesters from across the country. These are, however, in my somewhat cynical opinion, isolated instances which have proven to be exceptions to the norm in recent years.

In reality, politics often lacks the appeal needed to access a wider youth audience. Perhaps Russell Brand injected some much-needed charisma and opposing thought back into the political arena, but that was merely a superb critique of a flawed system rather than a solution to existing problems. Increasing political appeal in the future does not need to be drastic, but would benefit from greater transparency and openness within our political system; a place where the youth actually feel like their voice is being heard. A leader who practices what they preach is essentially all that the youth desire, rather than the infamous façade Cameron adopted during his cringe-worthy ‘hug a hoody’ phase.

Ultimately, my generation just wants new energy injected into our regressive political system. As the famous American political commentator Paul Begala said: “Politics is show business for ugly people”. He was spot on: the ugliness of 21st century British politics is why our youth are rejecting politics.