The 'supposed' Age of Entitlement

From the Age of Enlightenment to the Age of Entitlement - are we entering the next great period of cultural revolution? Or is this just another one of those bed time stories our beloved baby-boomers have told us over the years?

For years Australian millennials have been labelled as lazy and living in an ‘entitlement culture,’ most evident in former coalition treasurer Joe Hockey’s rhetoric. This condescension is still alive and well, evident with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s recent blunders regarding first time homebuyers, stating in an interview that wealthy parents should ‘shell-out’ and buy their children homes. It is in many ways infuriating that these heedless sentiments are being expressed amongst the political elite of the country. Instead of providing tangible advice or assistance to the multitude of young Australians struggling in the housing market, Turnbull has chosen to proliferate the meme of the ‘self-entitled millennial.’ Instead of acknowledging the impregnable hold that negative gearing has on housing affordability, Turnbull sneers at the hundreds of thousands of young Australians who face the constantly growing intergenerational wealth gap in this country.

The sad reality of these events is that many around the country shake their heads, unsurprised by this. It’s no secret that the Liberal Party, in a sense, is a manifestation of the actual entitled population of Australia; the wealthy and the baby boomers. As they sit in their homes, millions of young Australians face the prospect of not ever being able to afford one of their own. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1985 the average price of a household in Sydney equated to 3.5 years of a person’s annual income, compared to current prices in 2016 equating to roughly a 10 year salary. This objective reality should mean something to the older generations, however it turns into a peripheral issue whenever they are made aware of it. The common response to any millennial trying to raise an issue such as this is that they don’t want to work as hard as ‘we did back in the day.’ This kind of attitude adds insult to injury; misrepresenting a call for equal opportunity to one of entitled laziness. Here, the crux of the issue can be seen, the entitlement does not come from the younger generations, it comes from the ignorant and wealthy.

Accompanying this entitlement is the seemingly lack of empathy for the Darwinian social climate that Australia’s youth enter. Since the recession of the 1990s, and its reinforcement with the 2009 global financial crisis, Australian youth are entering a world where they cannot survive without skills and experience. Contrary to this message is the distressingly low post-graduate employment rates and possibilities. As we grew up, we were told that the world was at our fingertips and all that was required of us was hard work and dedication. From looking at the statistics it’s clear this tale isn’t as wondrous as we were once told it would be. Although it’s obvious that well-qualified Australians have higher possibilities of being employed than the latter, according to a survey conducted by Graduate Careers Australia in July 2015, 32 per cent of 2014 graduates were still struggling to find employment up to four months or more following the completion of their degree. In addition to this, the survey found that between 15 to 30 per cent of graduates were forced to give up their career aspirations and dreams to seek jobs elsewhere due to lack of employment possibilities.

This lack of employment possibilities was yet again sneered at by the current coalition with the Liberal Party’s 2016 budget, outlining an internship program. This program proposes a $4 per hour wage, less than a quarter of the current minimum wage in Australia. Akin to previous attempts, this proposal does little to satiate the needs and hunger of young Australians trying to enter the workforce. It opens up the possibilities for employers to manipulate interns, exemplified in an Interns Australia report in 2015 which found that 86.4% of the surveyed interns did not go on to receive paid employment from that company.

The sentiments that these kind of policy proposals and the baby-booming generation emanate is that Gen-Y should feel privileged to have some form of paid employment. This is reflected with the insecurity in employment length, with contract work and part-time employment the highest amongst young Australians than ever in history.

As we enter the road to the election, with the ballots opening on July 2nd, out of the almost one million Australians not enrolled to vote, 350,000 of them are young Australians. This signifies a lack of trust and lack of care in the political system; they feel that their interests are not represented nor are their voices heard. It is saddening, yet not surprising to find this kind of opposition amongst millennials. With the sheer wealth and cantankerous cultural influence that the baby-boomers have, the government has had no choice but to make policy decisions that only have their best interests in mind. The most evident of these have been the resistance of addressing negative gearing, the most important factor in the inflation of Australia’s property prices. By allowing the losses on rental properties to be claimed as tax against an investor’s other forms of income, it has allowed property owners to grow their wealth at the expense of affordable housing for millions of young Australians.

The reality is simple, the claims made by the older generations that the Australian youth is living in an age of entitlement is factually and literally incorrect. As they spout their rhetoric in an attempt to further inflate their ego’s, talking about the thousands of hours they spent working every week compared to the youth today, they disregard the real issues facing millions of young Australians. With post-graduate unemployment and tertiary education costs increasing, and spiralling housing affordability issues, the hypocrisy of their sentiments is astounding. The true entitled and peevish population in Australia are our baby-boomers; in one generation they have almost used up almost all of the world’s natural resources, effectively polluting the planet to a degree that we now face seemingly insurmountable challenges in regards to climate change. They have destroyed Australian industry with their greed; creating a system which benefits from the shipping production and labour costs offshore, instead of providing employment opportunities for young Australians. In addition, they have pushed for policies which prioritise pushing wealth into their retirement funds so they are able to live their lavish lifestyles whilst their grandchildren face the fortified intergenerational wealth gap. 

Michael Luck is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Psychological Science at The University of Queensland (UQ). With a passion for psychology and politics he is interested with the link between the two. Michael's writing is primarily influenced by eminent thinkers such as Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens. For more, follow Michael on Twitter @minkey13 and on Instagram @minkey.exe.