There is no doubt that the Millennial generation (born 1975 to 1995) are now facing hardships that the luckier generation of their parents did not have to endure.
Yes it’s been part of the capitalist system since the days of the ‘robber barons’ but it’s now worse than ever. Credit Suisse reported this week that the richest 1% own half the world’s wealth. The sustained bull run in equities has been a factor but so too has tax avoidance by rich individuals and multinationals, as revealed by the recent Panama Papers.
A perfect storm of rising house prices, a shortage of accommodation and tighter mortgage rules have all combined to result in lower home ownership for Millennials compared to Generation X (born 1965 to 1975) or Baby Boomers (born 1945 to 1965) at the same age. The absence of this fundamental base of financial security for so many has serious long term social consequences.
Technological change continues to impact employment (and therefore incomes) massively. Millennials may be more educated than their parents but they have to deal with student loan debt, zero hour contracts and competing with robots for jobs – potentially making them the first generation in history to be worse off than their parents.
The Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report also noted that the Millennial generation have a poorer pension outlook than the generation before. This is a consequence of lower earnings (and hence lower pension contributions), the end of generous defined benefit company pension schemes and lower / later future State pensions as a result of the large and ageing Boomer generation.
It may be that the Millennial generation will driven by the inequality of their socio-economic circumstances to protest many of the government policies than underpin the modern capitalist system, both in Ireland and globally. This might result in sweeping changes to tax and welfare systems and lead to a fairer and less divided society.