Young and jobless: A global crisis

In countries as disparate as the U.S., Tunisia, Germany, and China, younger adults are finding it hard to get jobs. This is a crisis of global proportions.

Peter Coy, in a cover story for Business Week (link here), reports on the creation of a “a lost generation of the disaffected, unemployed, or underemployed—including growing numbers of recent college graduates for whom the post-crash economy has little to offer,” adding:

While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation.

The new generation gap

We continue to see a brewing economic generation gap between the younger and older generations. The jobs crisis facing the young is fueled by older workers holding onto good jobs and their expectations for retirement. According to Coy:

The world is aging. In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder.

Familiar terms, dire consequences

References to a “lost generation” and a “generation gap” harken back to Hemingway’s Paris and Woodstock of 1969, yes? But mark my words, this is different. We’re looking at stark economic challenges that will reverberate for decades to come.

Right now, it doesn’t look good for the younger folks. Take the situation in the U.S. The people in charge of hiring and setting pay are older, and they’re likely to be watching out for themselves. (Classic example: Companies with highly-paid managers and unpaid interns.) Furthermore, older folks vote more often than younger folks, which translates into more attention to Social Security and less to Pell Grants.

Egypt has just taught us that relatively peaceful revolutions fueled by the young are still possible. Will younger people in other countries exert their political power to claim a better future for themselves?

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Young and jobless: A global crisis « Minding the Workplace -- Topsy.com

  2. The other side to this story is all the people in their 50’s being laid off so that companies can hire younger cheaper workers. These laid off 50 somethings now have no health insurance and are too young to take their pensions. The solution is universal health care, lower retirement ages, not raise them to 70 and go to mandatory 35 hour work weeks (no overtime allowed) with 6 weeks paid leave per year. That way the few cannot be worked like slaves while the many remain un or under employed,

    • Unfortunately the young and the middle-aged, to some extent, are being played off each other. Consequently, the solutions are complicated. For example, I agree that — on balance — shorter work weeks and more vacation time would be healthier for people in many different ways. But for those who are urgently trying to build up retirement funds, a cap on hours worked won’t help them. Further, those caps won’t apply to salaried workers in the white collar sector, which is where the jobs bottleneck facing younger workers is also quite significant. It’s a really vexing situation.

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