In recent days, an ESRI Report has revealed that deep intergenerational inequalities exist as the younger millennial generations are on lower living standards than ever existed for previous generations. According to The Irish Times, ‘ESRI study suggests millennials first generation with lower living standards than before… A combination of stagnant wages and higher housing costs have left young workers in Ireland financially worse off than their parents... The research found that earnings have flat-lined for young people entering the Irish labour market and that workers in their 20s are – in real terms – earning less than they did in the 1990s and 2000s.
Their situation is compounded by higher housing costs fuelled ‘by rapidly rising rents’… This is in part because home ownership rates for young adults have ‘collapsed’, the report said… While more than 60 per cent of those born in the 1960s lived in a home they or their partner owned by age 30, this had fallen to 39 per cent for those born in the 1970s and 32 per cent for those born in the early 1980s… As a result, millennials in the 20s and 30s are likely to be the first generation in Ireland to have lower living standards than the previous one… Historically, every generation has enjoyed a higher standard of living than the one before’.
The Irish Times elaborated further by saying, ‘the ESRI’s findings are part of a wider report entitled Poverty, Income Inequality and Living Standards in Ireland, which is due to be published later this week… The report found that young adults have been ‘disproportionately’ hit by the economic fallout from Covid-19, suffering significantly higher rates of unemployment… It noted that there were 112,000 fewer 15-34 year olds in paid work in the final quarter of 2020 than a year earlier, compared to 93,000 fewer workers aged 35 and older…
Proportionally, employment was 14 per cent below its pre-pandemic level for those aged 15-34, compared to just 6 per cent below for those in the age 35-plus category’. Further, The Irish Times said that ‘the study found there has been ‘widespread stagnation in earnings growth’ since the 2008 financial crisis, with average earnings for those born in the 1980s no higher from age 25 to 35 than for those born in the 1970s.
The lower earnings growth and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on young workers reflect the fact that they are more likely to work in retail, hospitality, art or leisure sectors, which have relatively lower wages and have been most adversely impacted by the current restrictions… According to the ESRI economist, Barra Roantree, ‘these findings should be a cause of serious concern… While it is the most serious medical impacts of Covid have been on older people, it is clear that the greatest impact in the labour market is being felt by younger workers… Policies that act to tackle the root causes of high rents will also disproportionately benefit younger adults who risk otherwise being left behind’.
This report has been highlighted by opposition parties such as Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly, who said that ‘the fact of the matter is our economy has never worked for anyone, and it has especially failed young people… Successive Governments have rewarded wealth over work and multinational corporations over working families, and the pandemic has exposed this… Post-Covid19, we cannot go back to ‘business as usual’ and have a reconstitution of the economy as it was, which was exactly what was done after the financial crisis – we must build back better’. Junior Minister for Special Education, Josepha Madigan ‘says the government wants to ensure that doesn’t happen’.
In summary, the findings from the ESRI Report demonstrate the grotesque levels of intergenerational inequalities that exist. However, one cannot be surprised with the findings that were released from this ESRI Report, as many young people have felt the burden of lower standards of living for too long. As acknowledged by Louise O’Reilly, ‘part of the reason for the disproportionate impact of job losses on young workers is they were more likely to be employed in the retail, hospitality, and arts and leisure sectors, those most affected by the Covid crisis and associated public health measures’. We need a new deal for young people immediately that prioritises the needs of younger people, who are being disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the sectors, where a majority of young people work in, have been decimated by this pandemic.
Commentary in recent weeks on the headline that was on the front pages of the Daily Mail on Monday, the 28th of April, at the concern of the Government of young people ‘lying in bed’ and receiving the PUP has not been helpful and cannot continue. These younger people have had their lives, decimated due to the pandemic, have lost their jobs through no fault of their own due to the public health restrictions and need to be prioritised in any post-Covid-19 recovery. It remains to be seen whether the Government is able to deal with this issue successfully. However, without any doubt, it is likely to become a huge problem for the Government for the next few years, which it must deal with, before the scenes of 10 years ago, of young people emigrating to other countries to seek better work opportunities, before more familiar.