We see it almost daily now. Everyday Millennials go about their days logging into Facebook to read some sort of headline stating “Millennials are doing this and that instead of having normal functioning lives.” At least, it’s something along those lines.
More often than not, we get pitted as the generation that killed off the “normal” way of life. You know, when people just settled down, got jobs, and made babies. Sure, those things aren’t as much the norm as they used to be, but does that simply mean young people don’t want those things? Rather than that being the case, it seems that this new wave of living is far less about what people entering the real world want and more of a symptom of a broken system.
How can this be boiled down in the simplest way possible? Well, look no further than the education field and job market. The past couple years have seen the last few batches of Millennials transition into society via the job market or post-secondary education. All we have to do is track the behavior patterns to see exactly what has changed and how people are following their path in life. This will help us recognize the circumstances causing them to make certain decisions and why things aren’t what they used to be. Some of the earliest and most important decisions occur in the transition into life after living with mom and dad for so long. Since the circumstances have changed, so have the decisions people have been making.
Let’s say we focus on what happens when someone chooses some sort of post-secondary education for example. Despite what Boomers might think, we now live in world of unsettling tension where we struggle between wanting a career in things such as the humanities, sciences, history, etc,. and not wanting to succumb to the mass debt that follows the education you need. Essentially, we are being asked to sacrifice a lifetime of doing something we would actually enjoy and benefit from financially and emotionally in exchange for a lifetime of owing people mass amounts of money. This isn’t no small chunk of change, either. We are seeing immense numbers of student debt, the likes of which other generations never had to worry about. Boomers like to use the phrase, “YOU took out the loan so it’s YOUR responsibility,” when the reality is we were giving a do-or-die situation. Not only that, but it’s a situation they never had to deal with and one that they will never really understand. To rationalize that in any form to make it sound like Millennials are being “entitled” is blatantly ignorant, to say the least.
All this comes with pretending that college is even a choice. Aside from certain trades, most employers demand that applicants possess some sort of Bachelor’s degree. Hell, a lot of the times they don’t even specify what degree they’re looking for. They just state they want you to have the damn thing. Long gone are the days of apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Entry level jobs aren’t so much entry level anymore when you’re demanding so much from the potential workforce. It seems like by the time you finally get that entry level position, you’re fully equipped with the knowledge and tools to work in management. Unfortunately you now must suffer from the feeling of being overqualified without ever seeing the pay you think is fair and just. It’s not like they’re asking for too much, either. Back then, a person could make a decent salary and expect a house with all the trimmings. Now you’re lucky to have one job that will pay all your necessities in full. All the while, the Boomers that sit atop the corporate ladder continue to slash wages, cut benefits, and make sure you become a slave to the system rather than someone who can realize their full potential and actually make something more of themselves. Yet they will go on and pretend like them giving workers 3% raises actually means anything when back in their day they saw raises at 10% and then some.
With more and more limitations on who can get what job, this has created a field of unhealthy and straining competition between those in the workforce. Think about how competitive it is for a job that barely pays back your loans you took to get that job in the first place. You sometimes spend months or even years in search for anything that will even be remotely worth your while. We have teachers now working side hustles because they have to jump on whatever paying gig they can get, and these are the people in charge of nurturing the future and taking care of the things we find most important to us. Yet this is what the nation has come to. Greed has birthed a system that is so unsustainable that people are stretching themselves down to their membrane in hopes to just get by.
Granted, this is a very stripped down version of this argument. We haven’t even begun to discuss the increase in the cost of living, the rise in what it takes to get decent medical care, and the ever-so-lovely tax cuts to the rich that further the divide between the working class of the Millennials and Boomers that currently reigns supreme in today’s economic environment. Until some sort of reform is reached, this problem will continue to fester and grow until something gives. If we as a nation want something sustainable for the future generations to come, we need to reach a consensus and before the floor falls out from under everyone’s feet.