Compared with the older generation swanning around on their cruises, [those in their twenties] seemed anxious, exhausted and alienated. A few months [ago], the think tank Reform took up the term the iPod generation, labelling them insecure, pressurised, overtaxed and debt-ridden. Now the pensions crisis has made it even more clear. To be young in Britain is not a carefree experience. The real divide in this country is no longer between toffs and council estate lads, the public sector versus the private sector, or middle-class culture compared with the benefits culture. The big gap now is between the old and the young.
In a situation like this, it seems one always has to add insult to injury, and accuse those in their twenties of being "selfish."
But the generation now in their twenties are going to suffer even more [than those in their thirties]. They are called the selfish generation, but in fact research shows that they give more to charity and are more concerned about the environment than any other age group. They must look at their elders and wonder who really are the selfish ones.
Last week, I went to a party for a friend who is 28 to celebrate the fact that she had finally paid off her student loan. She is now saving for a fifth of a share in a house in Hackney. She can't even consider a pension. At a talk I gave at Cambridge University last week, the majority of students wanted to go into the City or become solicitors or accountants "to make money". If they don't start immediately, they will never scramble on to the housing ladder.
This generation is so debt-ridden that they have to live at home after university. It is not because they have been mollycoddled and want their washing done, it is because they can't afford anything else.
Of course, the British situation is different from ours here in the U.S. One of the upsides of our immigration problem may be that it provides an influx of relatively young people, who seem inclined to reproduce. (Don't misunderstand me; I know that presents its own set of issues.)
It seems safe to predict, in any case, that over the next decade we are going to be forced to confront our own version of the "Clash of Generations," and the first front in that battle is likely to be the looming crisis in Medicare.
[Disclaimer: As the father of four boys in their twenties, all engineers or engineers-in-training, one still in graduate school and one still in college, I have an obvious interest in this issue. If my health permits, I plan never to retire, and would like to die with my boots on. I work all year, and I take no vacations. I put myself through post-graduate training, and was fortunate enough to start out in life not in debt.]