Ed Howker and Shiv Malik, authors of a new book, consider themselves amongst the oldest members of the ‘jilted generation’. They could also be KIPPERS – ‘Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings’; IPODs – ‘Insecure, Pressurised, Overtaxed and Debt-ridden’; or any other acronym that recognises the apparently unsung truth that the Young Have Never Had It So Bad.
They have a blog, which charts their generation’s decline into (amongst other threats) joblessness; homelessness -not owning a home, rather than not dwelling in one; anxiety, and debt. Throw a pensions crisis, an aging population and an inaccessible political system into the mix, and surely there might be a revolution to happen.
What do young British adults themselves think about their own situation? A YouGov SixthSense 'British Mindset’ survey, conducted in March 2010, investigated what priorities lie on young people’s horizons. When asked about their plans for the next five years, the most frequently-chosen priority by British men and women aged 16-24 (the core of the ‘jilted generation’) was ‘taking more exercise/get fitter’. ‘Buying a house’ did not feature in the top five priorities for either sex – which tallies with Howker and Malik’s statistic that just 27% of homeowners today are aged 24-34, down from 43% in 1990. Furthermore, the British Mindset survey revealed that in 2010 the desire to ‘change jobs’ was a more common priority for young men and women, than to ‘get a promotion/earn a lot more money’. Greed may have been good in the 1980s, but it seems today that most of the ‘jilting’ will be young people hopping between jobs.
Even unemployed young people – those at the sharp end of the Jilted Generation – do not seem as desperate as the statistics might suggest. Our survey of 1,046 unemployed people between the ages of 16 and 24 on behalf of The Prince’s Trust, found that 73% of male respondents and 67% of female respondents agreed with the statement: ‘With the right help I can have the career I want’. We are not at the nihilist stage yet.
Perhaps William Hazlitt was correct, when he wrote in 1830, 'There is a feeling of Eternity in youth which makes us amends for every thing.' Is the desire to change jobs, to shop around for a ‘good fit’, a welcome development? Does declining home-ownership reflect a new emphasis on personal freedom? Does the optimism and energy of young people mean that each demographic cohort will always make something of its own peculiar circumstances? Statistics regarding behaviour, even when supplemented by attitudinal survey data, do not tell us necessarily what conclusions we should draw from the facts. Young people face new challenges whenever they are born; today we do not enjoy some of the advantages of our parents’ generation, but we must tend to our own garden as we find it.