Baby boomers vs Millennials: Who’s to blame?
The first I heard of these cutesy names was in the wake of Brexit; this rift of generations started (seemingly) when the votes were cast to leave and this was heavily supported by the Baby Boomers. Since that time, articles have slated the “lucky” generation and have demonised their healthy pensions and welcoming property market.
Sitting on the tube next to man reading “The Pinch” I am distracted from my usual gloomy journey by the cutting tone of the blurb in front of me. So, I did as any true Londoner would do, I leant closer and began to read.
David Willetts, summarises his title in The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers took their children’s future and why they should give it back, in a metaphor: “The Boomers, roughly those born between 1945 and 1965, have done and continue to do some great things, but now the bills are coming in; and it is the younger generation who will pay them.”
He also blames them for (ahem) Booming. In the wake of world war there was a period of celebration but also a shift in perspective. The swinging sixties brought a new attitude towards sex yet chivalry remained, as there were plenty of men still willing to marry an impregnated woman. Yes, this may have increased the population but it is not just the population of England that is overcrowded. Mass immigration is a global issue but people are drawn to our shores because of poverty and wars. Rather than demonising a whole generation, I think we should be focusing our attention upon the real causes of key problems today. These problems are mass immigrations, global warming and poverty. These three issues cannot be blamed on our descendants but on the governments who have allowed this to happen.
The Guardian’s Rhiannon Cosslett (28) tried a social experiment, swapping lives with another freelance writer, Michelle Hanson (73). The 45 year gap displays the stark differences that each generation faces. Each wrote an article on the other and the differences in their lives. The dual writer article, “A millennial and a baby boomer trade places: ‘I can’t help but feel a stab of envy” gives a bleak read; Rihannon is jealous of how Michelle easily got onto the property market and Michelle remarks at the difficulties faced by millennials as Rhiannon cannot, despite having flatmates contributing to her rent by living “in the windowless airing cupboard, sleeping on the floor on a duvet.”
Other key differences stand out as having the time to see friends, not having anxiety over social media and going to college for free and doing a MA with manageable fees. Michelle sums up the differences between the two generations as boiling down to key points; “Your jobs are being taken over by machines,” she says, venting her frustration with self-service checkouts and internet banking. Couple this with a housing crisis, low-paid, insecure work, mounting student debt and an indifferent government and she concludes angrily that my generation are “basically fucked.”
It is refreshing to see a conversation between the two generations that doesn’t end in animosity. The issue isn’t the older generation enjoying their lives so that we can’t enjoy ours, but the changes in government and policies that have affected our lives. These policies include the introduction of education fees. The popular solution is the student loan company, they have now progressed and increase their revenue by adding interest to these loans which start the moment the money enters your account, knowing that it will be three years or longer until you can afford to start paying this back. The actual fees themselves for the students have tripled per year and seem likely to increase even further. Without protection, young Londoners and city dwellers are being priced out of cities as there are no rental caps like our neighbouring European countries have. Opportunistic investors are more attractive first time buyers than locals and so the housing epidemic has become a housing crisis.
Until there are changes in education and housing policies to protect the young, the Millennials will never have the same opportunities as the Baby boomers.