Why Gen Z is drawing the short end, again.
disclaimer: This article is written with some emotions at hand, and although I believe it is applicable in most places, it mainly refers to the situation in my home country, The Netherlands. I am not Gen z, I am generation Y, but I am a student right now and I’m seeing first hand what this crisis is doing to the youngest active members of our society, and how no one seems to protect them. In the last few weeks, my insurance company has increased my premium because “other people” had more accidents in my region. Not long after, despite the government’s call not to, the organization that rents out the building I live in decides to increase my rent again. While so far in The Netherlands they’ve set up financial aid for employers to pay their employees, and an aid for small single-manned companies to stop them from going under, but if you’re a jobless student, you are screwed now, and you’ll be screwed when it’s over. The only support students like me and Generation Z get is that they can borrow a little more…to pay off later. It’s not just the lack of financial aid in a time where students are getting screwed by rent and rising premiums during a crisis that bothers me. Gen Z is now a generation that grew up through a post 9/11, terrorist attack riddled time where nearly every new year got started with a bombing on a major city. It’s a generation that watched the world go through the previous recession and suffered the consequences of it. They now see a delay in their graduation, a lack of jobs, and suffer the mental pressure to perform even better. During this Coronacrisis, where they are expected to be the smart ones while they’re by far the most anxious, the most depressed, depending on a, quite frankly, lacking mental and regular healthcare, with premiums and “own risks” costs that come out of their ears, barely covering expensive medication. Never mind that several researchers and surveys have shown that Generation Z has the highest percentage of mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety. It’s slowly becoming clear that students have grown up anxious because of the amount of violence they witness in the media and the repeated downfalls they experience. This is a generation that will come out of this crisis with a broken degree, living in a land where we already struggle to house everyone, a mangy job market, in a world where getting a good contract as a youngster was already near impossible. But they will still be expected to perform maximum, build their career from scratch by finding their place in a placeless market, while being told to be environmentally conscious, and being looked at with puppy eyes to fix the economy. They are expected to fix us ecologically, economically, socially, while doing this with panicked school systems, a massive amount of debt, with a bad buyer’s market, an even worse renter’s market, in a job market that is way too addicted to the concept of flex workers and temporary contracts. A market so economically damaged that it could take someone a good 15 years to establish their career, and remaining financially low most of that time. A generation that is robbed of a lot of financial opportunities but has to be smart about what they buy, eat and do, yet healthy food is more expensive than ever, anti-conception is not even included in the insurance anymore, and jobs will become hard to come by. Where the millennial generation struggled to get out of the house before 25, if this goes on, Gen Z will suffer the same fate. How is this fair? How come places that rent out student homes can raise the rent? Why is nobody discussing how we can assure that this generation, who’s endured way too much in their adolescent life, gets where they need to go? How come, we aren’t looking at a way to shield this generation from being thrown into the deep end with the worst hand of cards they could have been dealt? Gen Z is possibly one war short from having the most turbulent upbringing of all the recent generations. They’ve endured terrorism, a society that often still fails to catch up with modern values, financial crises, and a damn plague. And we truly underestimate what this generation can do for the world, and I am almost scared to say it because of the pressure that might come with it. But this is the leading generation in technological skill, visions for the future in terms of ecological stability, the generation that is sure to become more politically knowledgeable than the previous generation (let’s be honest here, millennials, you didn’t care, you still don’t), and it is the generation that you want to convince to vote for you, the generation that is bound to become the oldest and work the longest.
Boost this generation. Do something. Do any of the below, or more. 1. Dismiss parts of the student debt. 2. Encourage companies to give proper contracts to newly graduated, and stop the nonsense with flex-contracts that keep the generation unstable. 3. Offer short, free courses so that Gen Z can adapt easier to the changing job market, we know they have the mind to do it. 4. Make “study and work” contracts more appealing to employer and employee, so they don’t have to spend another 5 years in school burning out under a high-pressure school system. 5. Make it easier to rent a place. Sometimes a place can be only €450 a month and perfectly affordable for a Gen Z or Gen Y with an average job, but they’re required to have a permanent contract, have worked for at least 12 months, or be employed for at least another 12 months, forcing the person in question to put pressure on their boss in a bad economy to promise them a new contract. Or they demand deposits of three times the normal rent, making that person cough up €1350 just to live in some of the cheapest and overpriced tiny apartments. There is a reason students are turning to anti-squat houses that could easily dissolve their contract. Each individual that becomes financially independent is a massive boost to the economy, but they got to be able to afford it. With how the rental market currently makes the rules, a Gen Z would first have to work for about 2 years while living at home to save up for the deposit and have a stable enough contract to be able to be considered a candidate, while fighting a competitive market with renters who already have that. Again, the quicker they’re financially independent, the quicker they’ll return the boost. All and any of this can help them get ahead again. We owe it to them to do this if you’re expecting this generation to pay the taxes that are going to refill our resources after the crisis. Last but not least, a call to the parents: Be patient with your 20-year-old. Let them stay at home a little longer. Perhaps help them skip the renter’s market since the house prices are hopefully dropping soon. A lot of generations maintain the kicking the bird out of its nest philosophy, and while there’s normally nothing wrong with it, this won’t be a case of failure to launch, your kid just got screwed.