"Kids today", has often been said by parents. How often do we hear that? Or even say it ourselves? What does it mean when people say that? Usually the suggestion is negative, that they are lazy, that they don't work as hard, that they get into trouble or have bad attitudes. Not very often does it mean that kids today are exceeding our expectations. Some believe even Socrates shared the same sentiment (although it has not been definitively verified as Socrates), "The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise." I would like to stick up for Generation Y (Millennials). I think we are giving them a bit of a bad rap. My own children are Generation Y so I am speaking from personal experience from what I have seen from them and from their friends and acquaintances.

To make things easier I will talk about averages, there are always exceptional cases, and I have checked on the US Labor site to verify that my own personal experiences have matched the general middle class public's. My grandparents survived the Depresssion and WWII and raised children who grew into adults that went to college, became employed, bought homes and raised families. The jobs they had paid living wages that allowed a family of four to live comfortable lives and came with health benefits. Their salary to mortgage rate was about 3 times their annual salary. Today, however, there is a 1050% increase in salary to home price making home buying for young people a fantasy.

Ok, so they can't buy a new home. They can rent. BUT let's imagine that a young 20 something finds a reasonably priced house. They probably won't qualify for a mortage because of this other large monthly payment they are making that my generation and my parents generation didn't have to make- a student loan that is equal to 50 - 100% of a home payment. For many Millennials their student loan payment is higher than their car payment. We didn't have that problem. Tuition has increased 429% since 1978, while minimum wage has only increased 239%. Ok, so a college graduate should make more than minimum wage, right? That's why we go to college so we can get a better paying job. Unfortunately, that isn't a given anymore. "Today's crop of new B.A.s are staring at roughly 8.5 percent unemployment, 16.8 percent underemployment. Close to half of those who land work won't immediately find a job that requires their degree, and for those stuck in that situation, there are fewer "good" jobs to go around."  Remeber how our parents told us, "Go to college so you can get a good job and make a good living."? It was good advice so I gave the same advice to my kids as did the other parents I know. Turns out we were wrong. Now they have big loans and a shrinking job market. And that's the Generation Y adults who did go to college. There are many who didn't and are having a hard time getting work, especially full time work.

Recently, I had dinner with a couple who own 2 pizza restaraunts. They were telling me that they had trouble finding employees who would work and stay employed with them. It was a constant hiring process for them. They said several employees told them, "I can get welfare and make the same amount of money." So they did. Lots of people have a problem with this scenario. So do I. I think healthy, able people should work but if your boss can't or won't promise you 40 hours a week and health benefits and a living wage you can see why many give up. Is the problem that our government gives people handouts; maybe. Or is the problem that CEO's make 354 times the average worker? (471:1, it depends on who's labor information you use) If you are doing back breaking work and barely making it while you watch the CEO drive up in a fancy car, wearing expensive clothes, and you know he owns several homes, a yacht and other things you can never hope to own, what is your incentive to work less than full time, no health benefits and unstable employment? Maybe we shouldn't be asking why 'kids don't have work ethics like we did'. Maybe we should be asking why they even bother to apply for a job. The reason why I and my generation went to school and appplied for work is because we had seen our parents do the same and our parents raised us, bought a home and a car and were able to particpate in consumer purchases and went on vacations. We had good role models and examples in our culture that sold us on the message, "Work hard and you will succeed.".

What did Generation Y see? They saw mommy come home from work sad and daddy explaining, "Leave mommy alone for a little while she was laid off today." They saw granma having to move in with them because her life savings were lost in the financial meltdown of 2008. Sometimes both parents were laid off at the same time and when they finally did get a job it was for a lot less money. They had to move from their childhood home because the family home was foreclosed on. Generation Y has been given the message, "Don't count on anything. You will be let go for any reason at any time. Your salary may go up by 1% if you're lucky and we're in a good mood but that 1% will just go towards the increase in the health insurance and co-pays." Jobs are short term and can be taken away for any reason, at any time, no matter how many hours you work; how much overtime you put in; how much of a team player you are. Instead of the strong unions that granpa had their parents got 'at will'. And we wonder why they don't have a strong work ethic. Employee loyalty comes from EMPLOYER loyalty. If you want hard working loyal employees you pay for it with good salaries and benefits and reward them with dependable jobs that last as long as they do a good job not just until the shareholders and CEO's decide they need bonuses.

What did we have when we graduated in the 1970's? The idea and example from our parents that if we went to school we would get a good job and if we worked hard at that job we would be rewarded with a salary that enabled us to buy a car and a home and be able to raise a family and maybe even a nice vacation once in a while. Our parents were able to purchase us nice clothes, extra curricular activities and the promise of a good future. What message has Generation Y been given? If they're lucky they might get a good job but don't plan on anything because at any momemt a layoff will be called and they will lose it all. Don't work too hard because it really won't make a difference; we are going to send your job overseas. Is it any wonder they live for the moment? The future isn't very bright. But it doesn't have to be this way.

We all want the same thing. The chance for a better future. We can still have that and we can sit down with our kids and tell them, "Yea, things didn't go well in the past few decades for most Americans but if you vote, if you email and text and write to the politicians we can turn things around for your future. If you support unions again instead of letting them become weak like we did you can get a good job. If you demand a better future like our great grandparents did, we can still get one. Don't listen to those who say things are hopeless. They aren't. People have overcome injustices before and can do so again. You deserve a good future just as much as the few at the top of the food chain. You deserve a good job with a good salary. Learn from what we didn't do." Our generation was Charlie Brown and we allowed corporate Lucy to keeping pulling the football from us all the while promising, they wouldn't screw us. They did anyway. We need to take the ball back and kick it ourselves towards a better future. It's possible.


Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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