Every week, there seems to be another story about The War on Young People. While some say life’s more difficult than it was for our parents, others tend to say the opposite: that we’re a bunch of lazy, bludging, avocado eating, whingers. So what’s the score and who’s keeping it?
There are heaps of issues at stake, from cutting penalty rates to rising university fees, from unpaid internships to low wages. But the biggest issue is that it was much easier for our parents to buy a house than it will be for us.
Buying a house may seem like a long way away for most of us, but that’s partly because it’s so unattainable. It’s not about the fact that we can’t afford a house now, it’s that we probably won’t be able to buy a house in the next ten or twenty years.
Take the example of Tim Gurner, an 35 year-old billionaire who basically said on 60 Minutes that young people can’t afford houses because they spend all their money on avocado toast and coffee. Here’s the full quote:
“When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each. You have to start to get realistic about your expectations… The expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day, they want travel to Europe every year.”
It was a bit of a burn, especially considering he did receive a loan of $34,000 from his grandpa. Full credit to old mate for working hard and investing wisely, but to suggest that we can’t do it because we drink too many coffees is a bit rich. It’s not the fact that young people are putting their money into avocado farming that’s making it harder for them to buy a house – it’s the statistical fact that the price of a house in the major cities has gone up exponentially more than peoples’ wages. In Sydney, it will take the average first home buyer nine years to save up for a home deposit, vastly different from the three years it took our friends from the seventies.
As Mike Seccombe wrote in The Saturday Paper a few months ago:
“It looks as if there is a war on young people. And I, who entered a labour market straight from school when unemployment was 2 per cent, who got free tertiary education… and who was able to afford a first house in my mid-20s on a junior journalist’s salary, find it hard to reassure them otherwise.”
So here’s another older dude who’s basically saying the opposite of Tim Gurner, the avo-shamer. Whether Mike was drinking flat whites while he was a young journo paying his mortgage is unclear, but the point is that he freely admits he had it easier than his kids do. He had no HECS-HELP debt to worry about and there were plenty of jobs going at the time.
We’re looking at higher uni fees, crippling debt, higher unemployment and a housing market that’s almost impossible to enter. Sure, we’ve got Netflix, Instagram and online shopping to keep us busy, but we’ve also got more stress from high school level, higher rates of mental health problems and old people on 60 Minutes telling us to stop eating avocados. No wonder some of us decide that a trip to Europe is a more valuable use of our money than spending close to a decade saving for a house.
So, is The War on Young People a thing? Absolutely. And while it’s easy to blame old people for having it easier than us, it’s probably not their fault. They don’t want us to be poor. Most of them are just trying to live their lives, earn money and look after their families. And they’re winning.