You studied. You worked hard. You learned a second language. You know how to make a message go viral online. You use computers and software better than pen and paper. Still, you earn way less than your parents at your age, struggle to find a job, and might live through the destruction of the environment with our caring the responsibility of this failure. You are a millennial or a gen-z.
Today, we will unpack the major issue of intergenerational equity and how today’s young people have got the worst deal of all.
INTERGENERATIONAL EQUITY: OUR FUTURE HAS NO FUTURE
Despite making up the largest portion of the workforce, in 2020 millennials controlled just 4.6% of U.S. wealth. The youth unemployment rate of South Africa was nearly 56 percent in 2020, the highest of any G20 country. Italy followed with a youth unemployment rate of close to 30 percent. South Korean youths in their 20s and 30s are reeling under growing personal debt: the country’s young adults have a record 446.5 trillion won ($395 billion) combined loan balance.
Across the planet, something has broken: the economic and social systems that have always worked to uplift the following generation a tiny bit above the previous one are not working anymore. Increasingly, young generations have to “hustle” - from over-training to compete for a few good jobs to venture into increasingly unstable sources of income, such as cryptocurrencies - for little or no prospects. Why?
For a long time, the belief of the unstoppable force of economic growth allowed governments to dedicate their resources to older generations, assuming that the market forces would uplift the youth. However, when this paradigm was broken by the global economic turmoil started by the financial crisis of 2008, which never really healed, and lastly exacerbated by the pandemic, no one dared to change the system. Bottom line: if you entered the job market around or after 2008, you have been (at least partly) f*****.
Fixing this monumental, global issue will require so much time and effort that the current youth will no longer be labeled as such. Adapting our societies to the understanding that economic growth cannot be our main target (but at best a by-product of targeting human well-being) and will not alone ensure prosperity to future generations is a much-needed step to ensure this distortion does not continue. In the meantime, what can we do to improve things in the short term?
First, we must re-balance public spending between generations. Exactly as having a retirement pension makes sense, the youth should be supported in starting up their own life. One fascinating policy Atlas advocated for in the past is the creation of a Youth Basic Income, a monthly stipend given to people aged - for example - 14 to 24 to allow anyone to study, open a business, or simply have some support to start their own family. Significantly cheaper than a Universal Basic Income, it could dramatically support the uplifting of younger generations, especially those not coming from wealthy backgrounds. Another proposal I advanced in the past is making taxation progressive not only based on income but also on age, so to - for example - halve income taxation for Under 30. This would allow younger people to create a financial basis for themselves and translate into more job opportunities if the same principle applies to employer-side taxations.
Policies ideas to solve this situation are abundant, but the political will is often lacking. This is why we need more young people in power (Atlas is working on that ;) ), as it’s about our collective future!
THE READERS' CORNER
While the team and I continue to produce content for the upcoming Equitist Manifesto (here is a short draft), you can send some comments over, but also much more. Check below some interesting ways you can help in making the world a more equitable place.
- Interesting sources: South Korea has piloted a Youth Basic Income - read here about the experiment!
- Join the team: become a member or a volunteer at Atlas to support the creation of our vision. For example, our Policy, Campaign, or Communication Teams would be glad to have your support to tackle societal discrimination: join us, and our Community Team will guide you to the right people ;)
- Spread the word: In our quest to create an equitable society, we produce this daily newsletter, (soon) a weekly podcast, and every month together with our 22,000+ followers, we launch campaigns to turn words into action. Please support our work and share the link to this newsletter.
We'll change the world!
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