Uncertain times

Ask any Graduate, any under 30 modern worker in a western nation, and there’ll be a recurring theme that emerges in their discussion. No matter the background, there’s a word to describe the state of affairs for the young in the world:

Uncertainty.

And I’m not just referring to the news that bombards us every day with the state of things across nations, and across the planet as a whole. It’s fundamentally written into the landscape that we’re thrust into as adults, and what is waiting for those coming up behind us too.

Take employment for instance. Chances are everyone is fighting tooth and nail for those graduate placements, zero hours contracts and part time offers as much as they can. Most work a 21 year old can get these days is probably going to be shelf stacking for a supermarket for minimum wage, and that’s with a degree.

So what can you do, if your income is shit, and your prospects are unstable? Can you buy a home? Can you invest? Can you work toward more training, more skills, more opportunity?

Not unless your job is one of the rare schemes that offer a semblance of a future. And even then, there’s no real guarantee your job will be protected.The world seems to be shifting away from stability. Full time work seems rare, a career a goal reserved for only the most determined of graduates and apprentices.

Chances are then, anyone in their mid twenties is still struggling at home, still stuck in a small town with their folks, still churning through either college courses or part time work. Maybe temping will land you a position at some major company. Maybe you’ll be shuffled off to the next company.

 

Maybe you’ll get that sweet job, that full time salary and pension plan. What then though? Your job may be with an international firm, whose fortunes decide your fate. That fate could disappear in a moment’s flash if the world’s economy turns again; a scenario very likely in these turbulent times.

Given that climate, the option to buy a home seems a monumental gamble. Rental seems the only way: a precarious predicament considering the way the laws favor the landowner over the tenant by a ridiculous degree.

So if your economic situation is deeply uncertain, what of the rest of the world? Of life beyond work and life support?

Stories of refugees, wars and environmental turmoil pollute the airwaves and webpages. They draw the eye, placing imagery and predictions about how we’re all going to die of some form of cancer or another into our minds.

It’s hard to feel secure when the papers are telling you about terrorists openly killing people in the streets. It’s hard to even come to terms with the way the world is, when it’s repeatedly staggering from calamity to another.

To be young in this world is to face an uncertain era. What can you do? What can anyone do if they’re told the world’s shifting, the economy’s broken, and they’re up to their eyeballs in debt should they dare for an education?

What happens if their job is replaced by a machine? Code written by the underpaid, to replace the unnecessary, in a world where the unemployed are judged by the privileged? Where the people primarily benefiting from the reduction of the workforce repeatedly demonise the foreign and the forsaken to distract from their own hubris?

I don’t really have an answer. I could suggest politics, though that seems to be an increasingly rigged and pointless affair. I could suggest starting a business, though that’s even more uncertain than anything I’ve already said. The risks are massive, the payoff insane, but to do that you’d need a position of strength.

And if you had a position of strength, you’d probably be alright. The world seems less treacherous if you have the momentum behind you in the form of capital. Hell, even just having someone in the family own property is enough of a leap to change your whole life.

What if you don’t? Well, sorry to say, but anything you can do to improve your lot, is increasingly under siege for ideological, political and economic reasons. Money it seems is being shifted from the infrastructure that could enhance your lot in life to the people increasingly in charge of the whole machine. A machine that is failing its people.

The way things are going, its going to be a painful century for the young. The environment, homes, jobs, work, automation. It’s all coming to us, right at us, brought to us by the enlightened decisions of those who will either be unaffected or directly profiting from these futures.

All we will have is uncertainty; whether we will make it another day, or join the ranks of countless unemployed and forgotten, abandoned in the wake of economic turmoil.

In such a climate, all I know is that more chaos and tragedy will be the only certain future that comes.

 

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5 thoughts on “Uncertain times

  1. As a soon to be 29yr old working zero hours scaffolder with a 4yr old daughter and a height that rivals mountains with the beauty to make a Swan blush you hit everything spot on I’d just like to add it is infuriating in my line of work seeing kids coming up with the prospects to do good within 16months have the same qualifications that took me countless years and over 6grand of my own money decided because the money isn’t in their hand their an then they don’t want to know while people who want to work are overlooked construction is crying out for trades because the old workforce are well… old and the new only just now thinking of being trained the lack of stability is a constant drain and you have hit the nail on the head fella.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it. There’s a topic for another day you’ve highlighted though, and that is the skills shortage that’s plaguing every industry out there.

      Like

  2. ah Xander, it is almost like your post things like this to distract me (read: give me an excuse to avoid) from various morning chores I have do.

    There are many points I could raise with your disheartening piece and that we could potentially debate for hours – as we have done at various times in the past. But, time is precious, so I’ll keep it short. (ha)

    I want to pull you up on one specific point:

    “And if you had a position of strength, you’d probably be alright. The world seems less treacherous if you have the momentum behind you in the form of capital. Hell, even just having someone in the family own property is enough of a leap to change your whole life.”

    You seem to have this binary view of those that “have” and those that “have not” – and that those who “have” are ultimately privileged and look down on those that haven’t. But ask: How did they get there?

    You see, my family does own their own house. Mortgage is paid and they are both retired. Were they both high flying career people working in the banking sector bring home huge pay packs alongside huge company perks? No. Not at all.

    My dad was a Soldier and later a telephone engineer. My mum a secretary and typist. pretty standard jobs in the world that didn’t pay anything particularly special. “Oh, so someone else in the family must have been rich and left an inheritance then?” I can hear you ask – No. My grandparents were even less well off – One was a miner, one was a gardener, rest their souls.

    “It must conclude therefore, that your parents had better opportunities than the youth of today?” could be your next question. No, would be my answer. Whilst it is easy to prey on the doom-and-gloom of the present, the past, as you know, was less rosy – to most extents it was worse. My parents paid a mortgage in a time where the base rate of interest wasn’t some crazy 0.5% like it is now.. back then, figures of 9-15% were the norm.

    Job security wasn’t any different. I remember as a kid my parents talking of redundancies… and the company my dad worked for being taken over multiple times. Taking pay cuts to stay in a role that wasn’t going to be axed. My mum’s work was through one company but only when work was available — technically a “zero hours contract”, a long time before Labour turned it into a political buzzword.

    Yet, as said, they owned a home and brought up 3 kids. So how did they do it?

    Because they lived within their means. They stopped smoking before their first born – my dad stopped drinking and I imagine socializing too. My mum always put “a little away” for a rainy day – no matter how small. Clothes were repaired, not thrown away. At primary school – I had patches on my trousers if I tore them. Living in a typical suburbia there is a “keeping up with the Jone’s attitude” and my parents wouldn’t be sucked in by it. They would buy things when they had the money and wouldn’t put things on Credit Cards or get into personal debt. They would cook proper meals from raw materials and not buy 15 frozen ready meals a week because they are more convenient, yet expensive. That’s just a short list of being shrewd. I grew up happy.

    That’s how you save money. That’s how you get on. Yes – there are problems in this country, but people need to take into account their own situation too and stop blaming everyone else. People seem to think they have a “right” to have certain nice things, or to smoke, or to have multiple children, or to blow £100+ on a friday night with their mates. It’s not a “right” – It’s a “Choice” – and those choices means that you compromise about something else.

    It’s not all doom and gloom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I make a distinction for the present moment – I know of several people who have landed on a property and now sit on rent. That’s a monumental advantage over someone who doesn’t, giving them a steady income against some one who has to rent – which disproportionally affects the chances of the younger generation who don’t have that step on the ladder.

      You’re right, I have a distinction between those who have, and those who don’t. But don’t automatically assume I think those that do piss on the poor.

      You say “live within your means” as if I’m saying every under 30 has 5 maxed out credit cards and is broke from their overspending – which is not the case.

      I can’t speak for your parents and their difficulties, what I can speak of though is the experience of today. You automatically put the blame on the individual for their lot in life – which is true to a point. But let’s not get away from how difficult it is now for people who don’t have that advantage.

      Is it impossible? No of course not. But why should it be so different between those who have and those who don’t? Why should those that don’t have to fight so much hard just to stand equal to those that had an advantage in the past?

      This has nothing to do with the personal spending of an individual. This has everything to do with how much hard it is to manage that spending, when things appear to be so…uncertain.

      Your parents paid off a mortgage. That’s great. That’s what that generation can do. Do you think I could? Do you think people aged 24 are going to be able to pay off a mortgage over the course of their lives? Do you think they can get on the ladder now, with the required deposit, the steep price hanging over them and jobs that may see them uprooted and shifted to another place at any point?

      The young are going to get demonised for being irresponsible in a time like this, when they can have smart phones and laptops, cheap holidays and clubbing. Yet a disproportionate amount of money is poured into the hands of a renting class…monthly rents eclipse phone bills, fibre bills, laptops by a massive amount. Money that goes into the hands of people that got in the game back when they could, and now benefit from it.

      I don’t see how that has anything do with “smart choices” and “living in your means”. People are trying. Hence why they’re struggling. Telling them to thrift on the things in life that make it worth living because the roof is getting more and more expensive to keep is either a distraction from the people benefiting from it, or a deflection from any responsibility that something should be done about it.

      My thinking is that you believe the individual is the ultimate arbiter of their place in life. I believe that not only is that dishonest, but encourages the kind of aggressive economic activity that has led us to the current climate that so many people have to endure. People have only so much say – their background economically, financially and socially is going to define it for most people. Only a handful are going to push beyond that. We should be encouraging more behaviour like that, not pulling the ladder up and saying “try harder”, while making it harder to actually do so.

      The fact that said fancy lifestyles are constantly bombarding people from all angles doesn’t help in that way in the first place….encouraged by the people making money from that behaviour.

      I will happily blame someone else right now for the state of things – the people that can make money without ever doing anything productive, but just by gambling in the market with what money they have. Those people have more say and protection than the people that work to feed themselves. Dismissing their concerns because they may spend 100 quid on a night out vs. the kind of people BAILED OUT BY THE STATE because they gambled on the financial products they piddle seems utterly wrong headed to me.

      We live in a world decided by their actions, not by the financial decisions made by a tosser on a Saturday night bender. Their livelihood may be affected by that choice – not the economy, not the nation’s. Not mine or yours – unless he spewed on your shoes.

      A housing crisis, job insecurity, wage stagnation, the rise of zero hour contracts, the spiralling cost of education, the cost of rent, the utter domination of London as the increasingly viable place to work for anyone worth a damn….how is that the fault of someone buying a ready made meal from Morrisons?

      Like

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