Lazy, selfish, all talk and no work, self-obsessed, non-committal. Can you guess who I’m talking about?
According to the generations gone before them, it’s the wonderfully careless and narcissistic Gen Y.
Generation Y is made up of anyone born between the years 1980 and 1995, or the children and grandchildren of Baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1965). So if you fit into either of these categories you have allegedly been born into a whole generation of people with these admirable traits – lucky you.
But who is making these broad accusations and how accurate are they? It is probably no surprise that the calls are coming from older generations and they can be attributed to the age-old differences in values, actions and beliefs known as the “generation gap”.
According to leading social researcher Mark McCrindle the tendency to make negative judgments about younger generations is nothing new.
“George Orwell, author of the early 20th century, said that every generation imagined itself to be smarter than the one that went before and wiser than the one coming after,” Mr McCrindle said.
“This concept of generational disparaging is a timeless one. The Baby boomers, originally when rock ‘n’ roll was coming out and they were living in their teens in the 60s, they were called the ‘beatmix generation’. We go back decades but they were disparaging terms to say that all they were into was rock ‘n’ roll and wasting their money on new albums. So it’s a timeless approach in society and it certainly continues on today now with the younger generations, being Y and generation Z coming through as well.”
Virginia Hill, on the cusp of the Boomers and Gen X (the generation which followed) and Margaret Clifton, from the Builders generation, (the generation before), admit to having derogatory views about the younger generation but they believe their opinions are justified.
Ms Hill, a 49-year-old office administrator from Sydney, believes the “incompetent and lazy” tags given to Gen Y are valid stereotypes.
“Today’s generation are so materialistic,” she said.
“Instead of earning money to better their lifestyle they spend it on buying the new iPhone, going out, causing havoc and not contributing to society. They just don’t know what it’s like to be in the real world, they’re still living under their parent’s roofs, having food provided for them and again not contributing to our society.”
Margaret Clifton, 79, a Sydney pensioner, thinks that today’s young generations are “lazy and don’t understand how good they really have it”.
“Today’s young generation have no idea of the hardships that we had to face,” Ms Clifton said. “They get given everything from their parents and from the government. The government especially, giving them money for stupid things like having a baby, and they rack up these huge uni debts changing from different course to course, which half the time they never even pay back.
“Back in my day, we had to work hard and provide for our families, and ourselves. There was no help from anyone. They take what they have for granted and expect everything to be given to them. They have no idea what real responsibility really is.”
However Robert Illingworth, a 19-year-old business student at the Australian National University in Canberra, believes the complete opposite.
“I actually think we have it more tough than the old folks,” he said. “Student debt, less jobs, we’ll never be able to buy a house in Sydney even if we wanted to. Yes, we might complain about our situation, but aren’t we entitled to?”
Mr Illingworth described Gen Y’s day-to-day work life as “treacherous” compared to that of older generations.
“Back in their day they worked nine-to-five then home with the family. In this generation it’s nine-to-five and then work emails 24-bloody-hours a day. Please tell me how that’s fair,” he said.
Jessica Taylor, a 19-year-old student at Macquarie University in Sydney, shares Mr Illingworth’s views.
“I feel my generation, and the younger generation after mine as well, is judged so harshly by the older generations, its ridiculously unfair,” she said. “They always go on about how easy we have it compared to them. Sure, in some ways maybe we do but I personally think when they were our age they had it a lot easier, life seemed more simple when they were young.”
Miss Taylor believes Gen Ys “will struggle significantly more as adults” compared to that of older generations.
“University is so expensive it’s ridiculous. We pay twice as much, even more than what people from older generations had to when they were our age, and we will be paying it off forever,” she said. “I will probably never own a house, maybe when I’m 90, if I’m lucky. I will forever being paying a mortgage and forever working as well. My mortgage will be so much, plus uni debt, plus everyday expenses, like food and everything else, I won’t be able to afford to not work.”
Mr McCrindle believes the tendency for older generations to criticise the ones that follow is “very one-dimensional.” He believes people often seem to forget crucial facts. For example, the reason why Gen Y are starting their careers later is because they are in study longer and completing degrees at a much greater rate “with one in three Gen Y’s having uni degrees, compared to one in five Baby Boomers”.
“It’s easy to find what aspect of the generation is not quite the same as when the previous generation was their age without seeing the complexities, the context and the new realities that are the expense of each new cohort,” Mr McCrindle said.
And although it may be true that this generation is living at home longer, homes now cost much more than they did in the Boomers’ era.
“The average home is 13 times the average earnings compared to five times the average earnings in the mid-1970s,” he said.
Gen Ys may complain about the bad rap they receive from older generations but, according to Mr McCrindle, one thing is certain. They will be just as critical of the Gen X and Alpha Generations that follow. – Jess Dealcala
Manipulated image by James Mott