Young Australians agitating for change

By Rob Gilchrist
Generation Less

Generation Less – How Australia is Cheating the Young
Jennifer Rayner
Black Inc

Generation Y. The selfish generation. The lazy generation. The absent-minded, flighty generation. Is this really us? Or are our character traits a manifestation of the the effects of a changing world? Generation Less by Jennifer Rayner sets out to dispel the myths that underpin under-35s, their habits and their whinging.

Misconceptions about under-35s range from a lazy and entitled attitude to the inability to live in the “real world”. Such ridicule has existed since our generation began entering the workplace, and any attempt by the younger generation to influence policy is viewed through this lens. Rayner attempts to overcome this by plainly stating the issues facing many young Australians, and the resulting attitudes that accompany them.

Rayner is an advisor for the Labor Party and has hands-on experience within the political system as well as thorough insight into the problems facing the younger generations (and those who will come after us). Her experiences as a student, a casual worker, a homeowner and a working professional allow her to make judgements about the realities of being a young person in the 21st century.

The word entitled” is bandied about, though it feels unfair. Yes, some of Gen Y are overly entitled, living on their parents and adding little to society. But many more are just as hardworking as their parents, just as ambitious, just as socially conscious. What these young Australians find blocking their path, however, is a country that is increasingly intent on shutting them out.

Rayner touches on the rise of casual employment, the decline in workers’ rights, growing job insecurity and rocketing house prices.

She attributes the decline of community involvement, a sense of home and the comfort of familiarity to the rent trap, short leases and insecure work. Her ability to address such a wide range of issues in a compact piece that never feels dull or unanchored is a credit to her research and deep level of understanding.

Wasteful spending, tax concessions for the rich and escalating national debt are relegated to future generations, while infrastructure projects which are “too costly” are ignored, or scrapped to ensure votes from a vocal minority.

Rayner speaks of the growing numbers of young workers who are pushed into casual positions that offer little in the way of security or rights. The accompanying insecurity results in many having to rent or stay at home with their parents – a source of contention and a fact often held against them by older, established generations. The difficulties of Generation Y are not merely confined to the casual employees, Rayner contends, but also the full-time, professional class. Those who finish their education, find a solid job and begin a long career are increasingly frustrated by limited opportunities as older workers remain employed longer and longer.

All of this is put forth in a humorous, albeit stark manner that conveys the sentiment “what can we do, but laugh?”

Rayner argues that we should head for the polls. Not as outnumbered as we may feel, we as youth are positioned to push for change. Yet of us many ignore our ability to vote, rally and petition. The democratic process has become increasingly obscure to the youth, who now feel that the government and elders simply do not care.

They are not alone. As a young Australian, it often feels like our own government is deliberately undermining our future. We are continually faced with policy changes that beggar belief. Proposals that would raise the price of the education we are encouraged to pursue are put forward. Wasteful spending, tax concessions for the rich and escalating national debt are relegated to future generations, while infrastructure projects which are “too costly” are ignored, or scrapped to ensure votes from a vocal minority. On top of this, climate change is ignored at the highest level, with national treasures like the Great Barrier Reef allowed to waste away. Social issues are also pushed aside and the youth vote appears irrelevant. This is shamefully highlighted in the case of marriage equality – the avoidance of which is a blight on our nation.

In the face of this, Rayner – and undoubtedly many others – are formulating ideas that show that we can band together and actively pursue change.

Rayner’s familiarity with the realities of being a young person, astutely applied, creates a refreshing refrain from the usual ‘woe is me’ attitude that I have come to expect from so many young people. Rayner eschews idealism for a grounded and sensible approach, and has a keen eye for the problems bubbling beneath the surface.

Rayner is witty, self-deprecating and clever. She addresses key problems, their root causes and the barriers that preventing their resolution. These barriers are not always deliberate – often, demographic challenges create a no-win situation whereby no total solution can exist – but her suggestions take this into account and are well thought out.

For any of us interested in Australian politics, demographic changes and the hurdles we face as a nation going forward, this is certainly a must read – setting out complex issues in laymen’s terms and giving food for thought on potential solutions.

Reading Generation Less has given me much to mull over and encouraged me to to research and to question in the lead-up to the next Australian federal election. It is my hope that many will read this and become aware; encouraging their friends, as I have, to become involved and have a say – ensuring that our view is always included and never ignored.

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