CANBERRA OBSERVED News Weekly
Millennials feel they've been left out in the cold
, March 25, 2017
It is a sobering thought that the cohort of first-time voters at the last election were not even born when Paul Keating was Prime Minister; that the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred when they were preschoolers; and that the John Howard era coincided with their primary school years.
There is much discussion among commentators of the courageous decision-making during the Hawke/Keating era of economic reform or the Costello/Howard tax reforms, but for the “Millennials” and those young voters in their 20s, these reforms are for the history books.
The prevailing political wisdom has been that young people are swayed in elections by issues such as the environment, the plight of refugees and other similar “causes”.
The Millennials' aspirational brick collection.
But, while it is true that many environmental groups prey on the idealism and enthusiasm of young people by concocting new causes to recruit members and raise money, it is also becoming increasingly apparent that Australia’s younger generation are just as if not more concerned with more conventional issues such as jobs, money and debt – and buying (or never being able to buy) a home of their own.
The “Millennial” generation, sometimes referred to as Generation Y, is generally considered as those who were born in the early 1980s through to the turn of the century, but who are now young adults and of voting age.
Millennials are the children of the Baby Boomers.
Raised on “Happy Meals” and other fast-food and fast-communication, they are the generation who have no memory of life before the internet or mobile phones, and in Australia (unlike overseas) have never experienced a recession or mass unemployment, although does this does not necessarily translate to actual happiness.
A recent Deloitte report found that young people were on a whole pessimistic about the future, and in fact unhappy with how the country was being run, and fearful that they would be poorer than their parents.
The Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey revealed that just 8 per cent of Millennials believe that they will be financially better off than their parents. That is, not even one in 10 young Australians think they will be more financially secure than their parents.
Oddly, this compares with the 36 per cent average in the developed world, such as a divided and uncertain Europe and a febrile United States. It also compares with a 71 per cent average in the developing world who believe they will be more financially secure than their parents.
An ABC report on the Deloitte survey defended the attitudes of the Millennials.
“Before the outcries from commentators that the young are whingers and do not know how good they have got it, let’s look at why they are feeling pessimistic,” wrote Carrington Clarke.
“While their parents enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, the future is looking increasingly fraught.
“Fear of terrorism and crime are now the top concerns for young people in Australia.
“The Deloitte survey was taken in September 2016 — relatively soon after deadly terrorism attacks in Nice, Florida and Belgium, as well as dozens of attacks across the Islamic world.
“It makes sense that they are among the top concerns for young people today and is something that is being grappled with around the world.”
But the sense of alienation is more than just fearfulness about terrorist attacks.
“Generation Rent”, as it has also become known, is saddled with university debts that are no guarantee of a well-paid job. And while they have lived their life in prosperous times, they have not shared in the wealth accumulation of their parents – and with current house prices in the major cities, are unlikely to in the future.
But the phenomenon is going to get worse, not better, over the coming years.
Inter-generational resentment is going to intensify as the asset-rich Baby Boomers move into retirement and the younger generation has to foot the bill for the associated massive heath-care and living costs because the profligate Baby Boomers spent when they should have saved.
The Millennials are just out of school or university, but over time will become a potent political force, and the issue of wealth disparity will be a big part of this.
Housing affordability, which is the current hot political issue, is one symptom of this coming inter-generational standoff.
Record low interest rates have artificially inflated housing asset prices, and distortions in the tax system and the sanctity of the capital gains tax-free family home, are adding to the problem.
It is no wonder the Millennials are unhappy, but over time, especially if there is a rise in unemployment, this will translate into anger and demands for serious change.