View from the Street: I predict a riot. I hope I'm wrong.

Katie Stanton

View from the Street: I predict a riot. I hope I'm wrong.

Tomorrow will mark 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and we’re still feeling the consequences – some of us more than others, it must be said. This week the Independent reported that the financial crisis has hit millennials hardest. They are paid on average £3,500 less than expected based on growth rates in the run up to the crisis, while suffering record cuts in public spending and rock-bottom interest rates (no bother, they have no savings to build interest on anyway).

As a member of the post-millennial generation (GenZ to those in the know), I just miss out on the ‘snowflake’ status, dodging the stereotypes like a millennial avoids hard work. I joke, of course - my age group has its fair share of harmful and unfair labels. Still, I’m left thinking: what about us? Surely, if millennials have it bad, the worst is yet to come for the next generation.

The Prince’s Trust reported earlier this year that young people are unhappier than ever before, and three out of five young people regularly feel stressed amid concerns over jobs and money. Disillusioned with the jobs market, one in three graduates is over-qualified for their job. Young people are “rapidly losing faith in their ability to achieve their goals in life” and their wellbeing is suffering like never before.

I can relate. After a year of pouring myself into the most detailed and articulate graduate job applications in the hope of using at least some of the skills I’d earned during my degree; practising and then sitting through hours of psychometric testing and spine-chilling assessment centres to no avail, what more was there to do but settle in for a full-time, minimum wage job?

If only it was that simple. Not only was I applying for these jobs along with other overqualified graduates, but when I was offered jobs at minimum wage it transpired that, in the real world, they would not pay me enough to live, to have a roof over my head, to buy kale and avocados (I jest!)

In all seriousness, with the average income lower than it was a decade ago, the cost of housing sky-rocketing and ever-increasing tuition fees (where they apply), it’s not looking good for my generation. Throw in a swing to the political right and pervasive discontentment, and an uprising might be on the table.

Mistrust in institutions has contributed to the polarisation of politics – people understandably wanted change following the financial crisis and drifted “toward ideological extremes”. But populists on both sides have dined-out on the crash for the past 10 years, butting heads at every turn rather than finding a way to make life more bearable for the next generation. We’re currently faced with growing intolerance, party in-fighting and a Brexit that I still can’t believe is happening.

Adding to the bubbling stew of rage is the public policy response to the financial crash. Bailing out the banks, injecting the system with money from central banks and allowing deficits to balloon, while effective at softening the blow, has done little to disrupt the status quo. The measures were seen as simply “propping up a system which had manifestly failed”, and those responsible were not held accountable, resulting in simmering resentment while living standards are still “struggling to regain their pre-crisis levels”. The wrongdoers are sitting pretty, while young people face the consequences.

Then there are the stereotypes. The media continuously dubs us insecure, lazy, entitled and afraid of a hard day’s work. Political correctness gone wrong, they say. We throw our toys out of the pram at the slightest offence, they say. We demand trigger warnings for anything even slightly risqué, they say. These are massively damaging generalisations and ones I don’t recognise when I look around my social circle. The gap between the old and young is growing quickly– and no wonder when they think so little of us.

Long story short, millennials and younger are highly educated and motivated, but we have little or no prospect of buying a house or earning a decent living to cover the basics. Eventually, we will reach a boiling point.

I predict a riot. I hope I’m wrong.


Katie Stanton is a researcher with Charlotte Street Partners. A graduate of International Relations at the University of Edinburgh, she is interested in international affairs and public policy. In her spare time, she enjoys running and reading.