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?