Scrolling through twitter, many would be fooled into thinking that millennials and Gen Zs were the most ungrateful and useless of generations. This is a total misperception of reality. In spite of the stereotypical rhetoric swirling around about lazy and unappreciative young people, it seems exceedingly obvious how much better older generations have had it.
During the 1980s, many individuals and families were given the opportunity to buy their council houses for a subsidised rate in the form of the ‘Right to Buy’ policy. Considerable numbers of people took up the offer, which allowed a huge chunk of the population the ability to own a significantly priced asset that they could pass on to their children.
However, as houses were sold off, the government failed to reinvest the money that it had made into future housing provision, meanwhile, successive governments have made it harder for private developers to build houses by tightening planning laws. So much so that today, adjusting for inflation, the average house price is three times higher than it was in 1975. As private rent prices have followed a similar trend, this has placed younger people in a much more difficult position.
In light of these events, another unfortunate phenomenon has reared its ugly head. NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard), residentswho hold opposition to new planned development in their local area, are another reason for the shortage of affordable housing available to young people. Ironically, NIMBYs tend to be older, better off and homeowners, yet they fail to acknowledge the luxury they have been afforded and have no interest in allowing future generations to have the same.
Owing to the older generation being so much better off (a quarter of pensioners are millionaires), you might think that government policy would reflect these particular problems. You’d be wrong. The triple lock (which guarantees the state pension rises by at least inflation), the Winter fuel allowance, COVID-19 lockdowns and planning regulation seem to be areas where successive governments have prioritised the old. This is all at the expense of the taxpayer – that becomes a smaller and smaller section of society each year as our population ages and more people retire.
Thus, the growing pensioner class, which has received the benefits of ‘Right to Buy’ and the “Triple Lock”, will become increasingly subsidised by less well-off younger people, paying higher tax levels without having the benefit of anything like the assets, wealth, or free tuition that the old generation had access to. All at a time that has seen the worst inflation since the 1970s!
A government action plan should be put in place. First, relax planning regulation. This would not only be to the benefit of building more homes but also of other infrastructural projects, especially in renewable energy. Secondly, we face a public expenditure crisis and, necessarily, government spending must become more targeted. That means no more state pensions for those that can afford without them, no more subsidised fuel allowance for those that don’t need it and when it comes to the price cap, cap the price energy for those that can’t survive without it (see my article, ‘The UK Government’s Energy Package Risks Causing More Harm Than Good’).
Returning to the beginning, the charge of ungratefulness should not be centred on young people. Rather, it must focus on those that have continuously benefitted from the system, but now selfishly fail to give the same opportunities. This includes the MPs that give these scrupulous individuals a platform in Parliament. The incumbent government must act to stop younger members of society becoming disillusioned. A lack of action will result in slumped prospects for promising young people.