This ‘young people lack resilience’ thing has been going on a long time, well before Ita Buttrose’s leaked remarks were reported by the Sydney Morning Herald today, along with her helpful advice that maybe we just need more hugs.
It’s long been a common pastime for leaders to declare that those coming up behind them all carry the same shortcomings. And resilience is an easy one to pull out: it must be all that overparenting, the soft surfaces that got installed under play equipment, the screens they played on when they should have been outside wandering the neighbourhood alone.
Young people today, they just want too much praise, smiling emojis and socially-distant hugs!
Millennials have been copping it for years, even as many have gone on to become leaders and parents themselves and are on the cusp of securing a much greater portion of the key decision-making positions in politics (although there’s still a major shortage of millennials in the Australian Parliament). A generation that was just in time to rack up university debt and participate in the increasing trend of undertaking lengthy unpaid internships – but not quite in time to get in on the first floor of the property boom.
But now the ‘lack of resilience’ weapon has been aimed at another generation – Gen I, Gen Z, young millennials? – those who are in the first couple of years of their careers or are just graduating from school, university or something else.
These young people – and particularly the young women among them – were already finding it tough. They were being asked to get increasingly more qualifications, do more unpaid work and take on more casual and insecure positions with less opportunities for penalty rates. And they’re well aware of the dangers lurking ahead in their futures, given climate change.
Now this is the generation that’s trying to get stuck into their careers – and secure their financial futures – during the Pandemic Years, something older generations still working today have simply not experienced.
So far we know young people have already been hardest hit by COVID-19 related job losses. Many have seen few options but to drain their superannuation accounts. They’ll be looking for their first major jobs and opportunities at a time when few employers will be looking to support graduates. The women among these young people will go on to experience gender pay and leadership gaps, just like those ahead of them.
And those that are ‘lucky’ enough to have held on to jobs today, are likely finding their lack of power within them problematic – with some being forced to work in offices, despite stay at home health advice, and others finding themselves hit hard by the lack of sick leave available when they need to self isolate or quarantine.
It’s well and truly time to acknowledge what the current career starters are up against, and how this period will impact their opportunities and their financial security for years to come, possibly even into retirement. They’ll be paying down the huge debt we’ll need to get out of this predicament, and be playing catch-up on the vital years they’ve missed on securing their futures. They may come to be known as the Pandemic Generation.
Young people don’t need more resilience, they need more support.
They need acknowledgment regarding what’s been asked of them from the rest of us (including those older millennials who are well into their late thirties now). They need a voice at the policymaking table. And they need to see real plans from employers, politicians and anyone with a say over their futures right now, regarding the mechanisms that will be put in place to ensure they have the opportunities they need.