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Taking a broader perspective…

A call for new intergenerational solidarity….

Zain Sardar is a Student Support Officer for the national Young Greens.

The recent protests surrounding the government’s decision to raise tuition fees to £9,000 has put intergenerational conflict at the forefront of a media storm and no doubt the public’s mind. Indeed, the raising of tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA amongst other public spending cuts constitutes the coalition’s attack not just on young people, but on the very social fabric of our existence and our communities; in-turn, this is having a profound effect generally on how generations relate to each other.

The current generation of young people, who have graduated from University and now find themselves in a difficult job market, who are at University, Sixth-form or Further Education colleges and High Schools have a lot to blame the older generation for. The younger generation face the prospect of paying more for courses, living longer with their parents because of the high price of property and now deposits on mortgages, and the prospect of few available jobs and working longer into old age when they do get a job.

To take a significant example of where the younger generation is struggling outside of the education sector, take the housing market. According to new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on Young People and Homeownership, in 1991, 50 per cent of younger men (20-24 years old) and 32 per cent of younger women lived with their parents. In 2006 this increased to 58 and 39 per cent respectably. Additionally, average age of homeowner is now 32 for those with financial assistance from family and 36 for those without it.

Young people generally associate home ownership with growing personal freedom and confidence, but with the aspirations of many young people for home ownership frustrated, they are finding that life opportunities such as education, employment and emotional relationships being put on hold due to the difficulties and time consuming nature of getting onto the housing ladder. Getting on the housing market has become a high stakes business for young people, and with the shortage of social housing and the instability the private rented sector affords, young people seem more than ever before socially excluded from independent living.

For the above problems, the younger generation blames those who benefited from free education, prosperity, a bountiful supply of social and affordable housing and full employment for their current plight. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey for 2010 (National Centre for Social Research), over half of 19-29 years olds (55 %) reported having been treated with prejudice because of their age, far more than any other age group. The results of this survey came out as the predicament of young people was being spelt out in the literature, most notable, in the book The Jilted Generation by Shiv Malik and Ed Howker. One of the proposals they offer is a means-tested approach to fuel benefits, which would save money to spend on the younger generation.

On the same lines, recently in The Guardian Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote;

‘We were incredibly lucky. We grew up in what the French call les trentes glorieuses, the astonishing three decades that followed 1945, with unimagined prosperity and an all-nourishing state that provided healthcare and education. To cap it all, and makes us softer still, we enjoyed unprecedented personal freedom. Then came the supposed victory for the West. But by then we had taken over, and what a horrible mess we’ve made. If there’s any hope at all, it must be that our crappy generation can slink away in shame, and let a younger generation see if they can manage things better. They could scarcely do worse.’

However much I agree with the likes of Wheatcroft above and Shiv Malik, I believe now is the time for a new intergenerational solidarity.

More than ever before, it seems that we need to stand up for young people who feel let down. The recent protests regarding the raising of tuition fees shows that young people will not take the attacks on their future lying down. However, in the coming months as students launch a new wave of protests, with public sector workers and trade unions, now is the time we don’t point fingers at past generations, but stand together for the universal nature of welfare state provision that caters for richer, for poorer and binds us together in collective unity.

The only way to solve the problems that young people are facing is a renewal of intergenerational solidarity, trust and understanding, and not an escalation of it. One hopes that protests in the New Year will be a living manifestation of this.

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One Response

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zain Sardar. Zain Sardar said: RT @Broadleftblog: @Zainsardar calls for a new intergenerational solidarity on @broadleftblog http://wp.me/pXkBd-64 […]

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