For a long time, we’ve taken economic progress for granted. The promise has always been: work hard and give your kids a better life than you had. By getting on the property ladder, and through access to education and new technologies, younger people are supposed to have better life chances and be able to take advantage of social mobility.

In Europe, the 2008 financial crisis brought that promise into question. While unemployment dropped to record low levels, the continent also experienced “unprecedented wage stagnation” according to the OECD. House prices grew faster than incomes, making it more difficult for young people to get a foot on the housing ladder. At the same time, some economists worried that young Europeans in particular were, despite low levels of unemployment, being faced with poor job security and low quality jobs.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from HJo, who is optimistic: “Young people nowadays have more possibilities and more chances than any generation before”. Is this true, particularly in terms of access to technology and opportunities for travelling and working globally?

To get a response, we put HJo’s comment to Flavia Colonnese, Policy and Advocacy Team Leader at the European Youth Forum, an association of national youth councils and international non-governmental youth organisations across Europe. What would she say?

It is true that new technological advancements provide new opportunities that young people can take advantage of, but I think you need to really be a bit careful when we talk about the future of work. There are very exciting opportunities, but also a few risks – there is a lot of precariousness in the labour market when it comes to young people, and adding technical development, including automation, could also result in additional challenges for accessing the labour market and finding jobs.

So, on the one hand, it is true that it’s a great opportunity, but we need to really make sure that we invest in skills and making sure young people are ready for the changes that are going to come with the future of work. That means developing technical skills, but also not forgetting transversal skills that are very important – critical thinking, problem solving, and so on. And, on the other hand, also trying to shape the future of work the way we want it, so having a proactive attitude towards the future of work rather than just letting the change happen without us having a say in it. Young people will be the key actors in the future of work, so it’s important young people have a say in this and we shape the future of work the way we want to see it.

For another perspective, we put the same comment to Gary Stevenson, an economist and former interest rate trader who writes about wealth inequality. How would he respond?

Some of the ways in which economists such as myself try to measure society are sometimes very blunt tools, such as GDP per capita. Just by boiling it all down to one number, sometimes we really oversimplify the many ways life is changing for different groups in society.

So, what HJo says is completely 100% true. In many ways, life for young people has improved. Travel is more accessible, the internet is a thing – meaning information is much more accessible than it ever was. But I don’t think that takes away from the very real fact that being able to get on the property ladder, being able to own a family home in a city where you can get a good job, has become less affordable, especially for young people.

That doesn’t take away from the fact you can have a holiday in Thailand for cheaper, or you have Wikipedia which is an amazing resource… But, to be blunt, I’m from a relatively ordinary background, a lot of my friends are relatively ordinary people, and they want houses to raise their family in, and having access to Wikipedia isn’t going to give you bedrooms for your kids. Now, I love to travel and I use the internet, but families need homes.

Will the next generation be better off than their parents? Do they have more opportunities, thanks to new technology, than any generation in history? Or are they going to struggle to ever get on the property ladder, and have worse job security and fewer prospects compared to their parents? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

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23 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive


    “The divide widens with each generation, data show, the byproduct of wage stagnation and income inequality” The reasons are many. Usually, government policy choices remain the main reasons.,to%20less%20than%207%25%20today.

    Historical data collection & research is big business. Why not look at clean & available data from European, US & other global sources? No guesses!

    Opportunities & situations differ globally. Attitudes towards entrepreneurial spirit differ. Appetite to risk-taking differs etc. etc.

    In Europe, the political & bureaucratic EU concept is failing to protect future generations from ever-growing indebtedness. Who really benefits the most? As long as money is mainly created by banks & legislation and not productive work, there is no change.

  2. avatar

    Yes, for we still are able to revert the bombardment made on children mind in the recente decades. The children should be allowed to be free thinkers, not to be bombarded with others ideologies of how the perfect world should be. Most of those trying to program childrens minds to think like them dont even understand how the world was already perfect.

  3. avatar

    Well, look at US where the so-called Boomer (no offense intended) owns everything and they have got what they have at an incomparably lower effort rate than what people today have to put in to getting the same stuff. As population grows it will obviously be harder to maintain the same quality of life especially if governments remain tolerant toward those who abuse the system. I think it is unacceptable to basically sell yourself to a life long slavery (officially known as loans) just to get a chance to once own a property and not be fully dependent on the system, but it is what it is…

  4. avatar

    No. We will all be worse off in the West. Best thing to do is learn an Asian language and try to land a job in an advanced country.

  5. avatar

    No, unfortunately I think it’s basically certain that the next generation will be worse off than their parents. I mean I think already my generation (millenial/Gen Z) is worse off – so many “entry-stage” jobs require you to have studied and already 3 years of work experience (hello? its supposed to be ENTRY level). so you basically have to do internships for a couple of years, which – lets face it – is basically working for free. and that puts you three years back on paying off you student loan debt , which for so many of us is horrendously high. and then its not even guaranteed we’ll end up in high-paying jobs which would allow us to pay the debt off easily. It will all get worse with the effects of Covid on the economy as well.
    And I havent even started on the climate crisis yet – who knows whether future generations will even have a liveable planet to work on. I’m really trying hard to be optimistic, but I find it impossible to believe that my and future generations will be off as well as our parents…

  6. avatar

    “a lot of my friends are relatively ordinary people, and they want houses to raise their family in, and having access to Wikipedia isn’t going to give you bedrooms for your kids.” this is so true! :(

  7. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    After reading some comments- wonder I dare:
    “EU political, social & cultural harmonization vs EU economic harmonization”?

    According to some, my perception is- some see improvements. Although EU politicians keep painting rosy dreams- probably deferred & deceptive ones. Is it to portray strength, unity & relevancy?

    According to media & stats, both show skills shortages- hand in hand with youth unemployment. Reasons?

    Why are all these questionable, uncalled and never-ending NGO “rescue searches”– netting only unskilled & illegal migrants- allowed to continue?

    No financial responsibility rests with any of these NGO’s but with all EU taxpayers, whose governments have to divert unbudgeted funds for all resultant consequences. Neither requested nor ordered by EU members- only once originated by a Mrs Merkel.

    No further EU actions followed that lone decision by said EU member. Have all suddenly become pc compliant, frightened & paralyzed by overbearing humanitarian pressures?

    It should be up to these NGO’s to feed, train & employ them afterwards. Or return them safely to their original homes. Isn’t that ironic but chronic burden detrimental to all in general & the youth in particular? Or- does the youth call to let all EU refugee camps swell, overflow & drown in chaos?

    After awakening- will their dream to afford a home eventually be realized? What part of their life has improved?

    Seemingly, the desire to spend unearned money for travelling, studying (EU incentives like Erasmus, free Euro rail etc. all on other people’s credit), spending time on the internet, holidaying in Thailand and dreaming to own a home has become easy & tempting.

    What are the pre-conditions & what does it take to get a “good job” or just a job nowadays? Please tell.

    The reality gap- “We (the youth) want” vs “We (the industry) need” is manifested within the youth forum.

    An example:

    Let’s look at the latest MB production facility in Germany-
    “The Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations 360 (MO360) -Digital production at Mercedes-Benz”.

    • Who most likely would qualify and employed in such a team- if at all?
    • Which generation was responsible to plan & design that facility?
    • Who should & will- in all fairness- benefit first & foremost?

    Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations 360 (MO360) – Digital production at Mercedes-Benz

    Does the main burden to plan & prepare as early as possible to meet these challenges rest with the individual, choosing relevant education, parents, the politicians- or the industry?

    I consider offering a universal income grant instead, demoralising & demeaning to any willing, eager to work, self-respecting & capable individual.

    Does that remind of a human scrap yard for all recycled & unusable ones? Shame!

  8. avatar

    Νο. The educational systems give 0 gravitas to soft skills.

  9. avatar

    am afraid not , because we fail to establish that atmosphere with one another , hopefully they could try to do what we fail to done

  10. avatar

    impossible to answer. Too many variables.

  11. avatar

    The children of this generation are looking forward to deep environmental collapse and worse living conditions.

    • avatar
      Catherine Benning

      Will the next generation be better off than their parents?

      @ Alice

      The fact these children have been able to experience life at all is a gift, not a disaster. And as a sideline, man cannot change the nature of our solar system. To believe we can shows a lack of respect for nature. The planet we live on is changing within its environment and the main cause is universal not manmade. These changes have been taking place since earths inception.

      This is not to say we should not clean up the mess we have made, as living in manmade pollution is indeed messy, but, in so doing we will not be able to reverse what is presently taking place in the cosmos, as that is beyond our control.

  12. avatar
    catherine benning

    Will the next generation be better off than their parents?

    The children in the UK cannot be anywhere close to the ability of the parents or even resemble in any way their grandparents ability to shine. First they can barely speak the language of the residing country. Think accents, along with very limited vocabulary. So, the basic schooling has little to offer as their comprehension is limited.

    Next, the educational standard in state schools is totally dysfunctional. Those teaching are barely literate, let alone have an ability or desire to teach their pupils to think logically or outside the box. When the children in their care are barely able to read or write to a level enabling them to grasp a basic education, it is beyond their capability to take them further. And they, as well as our government, know it. They simply cover it up the way craftly governments and school faculties across the planet do. Their jobs depend on keeping it all quiet.

    Hence, the crazed groups of idiots gathering to protest against any matter they do not having an inking as to what it is they are protesting about. Much of the schooling received being misinformation in the first place.

    It’s a horrendous circle of keep them dumb so as to make them unable to function intellectually as an opposition. You should see what they offer in positions of presenters, pundits, journalists or as Members of our British Cabinet movers and shakers today, much less tomorrow, when the rot has really has a chance to sink in. It is the equivalent of watching a Punch and Judy show.

    Unless a child is fortunate enough to have parents who can afford an ever rising funding for independent or private school education, your kid has little chance or becoming a free thinker or even partly aware of what education means.

    And so that you understand what it will cost to send your kid to private school here in the UK, as a 5 year old it is a minimum of 18,000 pounds per annum. At 12 years it is anything up to 45,000 per annum per child.

    And, as much of the well paying professions and opportunity for careers has been given to those from outside our British people, as they have little or no loyalty to the basic citizens of the country, to return to the once high expectation and aspiration of our historical excellence is daily less than likely. One of the reasons being, those now in charge despise our previous way of life and core lifestyle. They grope around the bottom of the barrel trying to fake standards, claiming to represent the way we were.

    Is it better in Europe as a whole? Or, have you been contaminated by this crazed desire of pretence we have here? You tell me. For if you have, I don’t see it. If it was better, the wealthy would be sending their children to fee paying European schools rather than the British ones they use presently. even though language may pose a difficulty. English being the international and business language throughout the planet.

  13. avatar

    I hope so, I have to..
    but I doubt it will…

  14. avatar
    Bert van Santen

    No, absolutely not. The next generation of EU citizen faces a huge debt of all money spend by EU politicans today.

  15. avatar

    No, once the most important learning methods and subjects are not thought in schools and kindergartens! Those are: the understanding of law and legislations (many people don’t know too much about it), subjects and activities which encouraging and enhancing design and creativity, discussions and learning about ethical and social norms are very, very important, studying and understanding spirituality (knowing how to meditate, studying Allan Kardec, Leslie Flint and other spiritualists) Learning methods: working and finding solutions in groups, encouring self studings and collaborations!

    • avatar

      👏👏👏 That’s exactly what I am saying (except of the spiritual part) and what I have experienced. Especially in kindergarten where children are still busy with developing their own understanding of the world and others. They simply do not need grown ups to tell them what is good and how to treat others kindly. They do. They do not need to be formed or educated, they grow and shape themselves. Then they start asking. People simply do not know what the prinicples of justice are. Not even teachers, what is embarrassing. Not even a teacher of physics could tell me three scientific principles. Not to speak of human rights and social justice, or basic legal knowledge like what a contract is.
      I think, teaching history should be upended. Knowledge of the stone-age is expert knowledge. Knowing about how our Europe and our values came to be, that is crucial. And yes, I am very much for focusing more on creativity.

    • avatar

      I don’t know why spirituality is such a taboo subject around the world, when in fact it is a science which each of us needs to explore!

  16. avatar
    JT HK

    What future the next generation can have if Europe is going to war with the American-led NATO? Before Europe can be sovereign, no need to talk about the post-Covid economic recovery, no need to dream about the future of the next generation. First of all, stop turning Europe into the battle ground for US military need. Look at destructive weapons the US has been sending to blow up Europe at the middle, this is only one of the many:…/fact-sheet-on-u-s…/

  17. avatar

    No. Leaving them a dimmer future full of unpayable debt, greed and confusion. Time magazine has named a man as woman of the year and a male has beaten all of womens swimming records competing as a woman. Meanwhile we are teaching incoherence regarding feminism and women’s rights.

  18. avatar

    With the current neoliberal model – no.

  19. avatar
    JT HK

    If parents are still blindly following lip service of politicians, focusing on the so-called values while ignoring the real need of social and economic opportunities for the kids, they will have no tomorrow except going die in wars.

  20. avatar
    JT HK

    Europe’s over emphasis on politics have led to irrational political decision. By following the US-led aggressive foreign policy to fight unnecessary wars and impose sanctions, which has been preventing European government from providing a stable social and economic environment for the next generation to prosper and become better off. We need to think very carefully by eliminating political smearing. China’s One Belt One Road and consistently advocating for peace, they are not just political rhetoric but the Chinese government has been implementing such policies. This is a way to sustain social and economic development by overcoming geographical barriers. Investing overseas with the abundant wealth accumulated by the huge manufacturing power. China is trying to offer opportunities for the Chinese and people to go all over the world. This is the reality of globalization and way to fit into the development of a global system. This is the way to create opportunity for the next generation and sustainable development of the country and the whole world.

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