The other day I got talking to some people I met at a seminar. Inevitably, the conversation turned to the credit crunch and one guy revealed he was writing a book about it. When I asked him the billion dollar question – when will the recession be over – he told me he thought it would never really end and that the effects would be felt for years to come. Then, a woman we were chatting to admitted that her son, who is 21, is unemployed and that he believes he may never get a good job or ever be in a position to own his own home.
Now, I’m not an economist and I have no idea how long this recession will last for. For what it’s worth, it seems to me that the people in the know don’t have much of a clue, either. But the thought that a young person just starting out in life has such a pessimistic view of their future really shocked me. And apparently he isn’t the only one. According to a survey by the Post Office last week, UK young people have a particularly gloomy take on the recession. 24 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds questioned said they thought it would take a decade for living standards to return to levels enjoyed before the credit crunch. A further 34 per cent think an economic recovery will take five years. Having lived through the last recession and the dotcom boom and bust, I believe that there are inevitably peaks and troughs in the economy but still have faith that things will pick up eventually. Perhaps because many young adults have never experienced life in a downturn they feel that it is somehow the end of the world.
One good thing to come out of the survey, though, was that 48 per cent of people questioned said they would change their borrowing habits because of the recession and be less likely to take on debt. If this is more than just hollow talk then I commend them. A more sensible attitude towards money is exactly what we need. Maybe we could really see the emergence of a new frugal generation which will learn from our mistakes, saving up for items they need instead of slapping it on a credit card and spending their evenings tending their home grown veg instead of glued to computer games and the telly. It’s a nice thought.
But maybe youngsters should spare a thought for the older generation. While 70 per cent of the under 24s dread unemployment, the reality, according to research by Age Concern and Help the Aged, is that it’s older workers who are being sacrificed to the credit crunch. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that over the past 12 months the number of unemployed people aged 50 and over has jumped by nearly 50 per cent. What’s more, 28 per cent of over 50s questioned fear that their age makes them a target for employers culling staff in the recession.
Of course, losing your job is tough whatever age you might be and whatever your circumstances. Many young people have families to support. But while younger workers may find it easier to bounce back and retrain, older workers often face an uphill struggle to find a new job. What’s more, many of them may also face an impoverished retirement too now that pension funds are performing so poorly. It seems particularly ironic – and tragic – that while government think tanks tell us we’ll need to work until we’re 70 to pay back the UK’s debt mountain, the reality is it’s easier said than done. Employers often simply don’t want older workers, even if they’re experienced and willing to work.
Do you think the recession has hit older or younger workers harder? Will we see a new frugal generation emerge from the ashes of the credit crunch? Leave a message and have your say.
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