Since time immemorial, young people have grown up in the anticipation that they will live a life at least as comfortable as that of their parents – that the next generation will reap the benefits of social, economic and technological progress. This is at the foundation of the social contract between generations, not just in Ireland, but across Europe and around the world.
But, something has changed.
Next generation can expect to work harder for less.
Generation Y, the so-called millennials, born since 1980, may be the first generation for whom this dream turns out to be a mirage. Long-term demographic trends, coupled with the long-term slowdown in productivity growth in developed countries, mean that the social escalator of yesteryear has broken down.
But, the real tipping point came with, and since, the 2008 financial crisis. Youth unemployment soared across Europe. In Ireland, mass emigration made a comeback as many who graduated from school or college – or lost their jobs in construction-related trades – saw few prospects at home.
Rather than helping, public policy often makes things worse.