Young people are in trouble. Here in Britain they are called “The Lost Generation”, those under 25 who are not in employment, education or training. My using of the third person plural merits some explanation. It’s due to the fact that the number “25” is pulled out of someone’s arse. Social commentators have been going on about “The Lost Generation” roughly since the economic recession hit; 3 years ago. Some of the people under 25 then are over 25 now. Does anything magical happen once they turn 26? Do they suddenly become “Found”? Or do they carry on having similar difficulties to the ones they had 3 years ago? Everyone is concerned about “The Lost Generation” because it’s well understood that once young people go through hardship when they should be studying or working, the years spent on unemployment are not gained back. They are, in economic terms, “wasted” years. So why do we stop taking young people into account when they cross that esoteric threshold? Those who have already turned 26, 27 or 28 are still part of “The Lost Generation”. That’s how one considers “generations”. Not as the people within a specific age range right now, but as people born between a specific range of years. Because people grow up. Or grow old. There isn’t such a thing as the “under 25s” generation just like there isn’t such a thing as the “those in their 60s” generation. We call them “baby boomers”, just like we did 20 years ago when they were in their 40s.
I pick on this for several reasons. First because this is more than sloppy analysis. The number of people affected by the crisis will obviously be larger if we include those who have already crossed the 25 years of existence. Furthermore, that number will get higher and higher the more people that cross it, or rather, the longer the recession carries on. If we present the problem in this way, that is, getting worse by the day, it suddenly becomes more pressing. And the last thing I want to see is those in power making a big problem appear smaller.
Second, because it acknowledges certain continuity in life that the other perspective doesn’t. Human life is more than statistics and bills made of paper. Politicians are trying to calm everyone’s anxiety by creating schemes addressed to those “under 25” which we know will take a couple of years to be implemented, and even then will only help a small portion of those affected. Even if they take two years to become effective, by then it will be five since the recession kicked in. The just about under 25 are now hovering the 30s. It’s too late for them to take apprenticeships, or volunteer, or do unpaid work. They want to live by themselves, maybe start a family… And they can’t do that without jobs that pay a decent wage. That’s the problem, you see. People’s lives aren’t put on hold when the economy slows down. Focusing on those affected by the crisis, and carrying on caring as they grow older, is more humane. It brings down the issues to actual people’s lives.
A third reason is simply that I don’t like sloppy analysis. For a long time now, social commentators have been trying and failing to find a way to define the baby boomer’s children. The problem is that there has been no major event, no big war that can clearly define them. We are all one big blob of people, everyone born between the mid 60s til today, all without a clear historical referent, an identity. And as if this wasn’t insulting enough, we are referred to as “under 25s” but stop being mentioned altogether once we turn 26? Pinfeathers!
Last, of course, is the very obvious reason why I don’t like the term “under 25s”. Because it alienates me. See, I was under 25 when the recession started, but, unable to put my life on hold until things got better, I was forced to keep on celebrating birthdays. And now I and those around my age don’t matter anymore because we eventually stopped belonging to this magical, mythical age group conceived by Jobcentre Plus? Hang it all!
To sum up. They are either those “under 25s” or they are “The Lost Generation”. But the two are not compatible. An age range refers to a particular portion of the population that changes over time, and a generation refers to the same group of people as they carry on over time.
Coarse language brought to you by The Sword In The Stone.