Pity the austerity natives

Mike Caulfield has a post on how automation of middle-class jobs, increases competition for poory paid job, which removes the incentive to innovate in technology for those jobs. It made me think how many postgrads going into an academic career now don't really expect it to be well paid, or secure. They approach higher education career with a very different mindset than I did. When I came into academia it was with the hope of getting the "cushiest job on the planet". Professors used to be part of the prosperous middle class, now they hover just above the precariat.

This chimed with another thought I'd had which was that for my daughter she has mostly only ever known living in a post-financial crisis world. She was born before 2008, but most of her formative memories will be of the age of austerity. Going on the principle that a bad naming idea worked once, so why not try it again, we could label her and her generation "austerity natives".

What will be the attitude of austerity natives to money and government? There was a report out today about teenagers in the UK (basically, they're a lot nicer and care more than the media give them credit for). But what of the generation after, and specifically their relationship to money and economics? Will they be fearful of credit, having seen the damage it caused? Will they be like children who were brought up in a strict household who go a bit wild when they are suddenly let loose at uni? They may have a frivolous attitude to money, because hey, it's all screwed up anyway. I suspect there is an interesting longitudinal study in there somewhere…

4 Comments

  1. I am still hoping that mention of austerity natives was a joke. There are still people living (it is only the 30th anniversary of the 1984 miners’ strike) who have personal knowledge that can confound the idea that only today’s youth are experts in austerity. I know form personal experience that today’s youth are generally caring and I know that their outlook for jobs and pensions is gloomy compared with my own generation. What does concern me is their apparent lack of involvement in politics – offical or otherwise. I do like your questions – it’s the use of the term ‘austerity natives’ that makes me shudder and I hope no policy wonks are watching;)

  2. “Professors used to be part of the prosperous middle class, now they hover just above the precariat”
    I presume that is a wind-up or throw-away comment, but, if you actually think your professor’s salary and the job security that you have puts you *anywhere near* the precariousness of huge numbers of people even within the UK, perhaps I could introduce you to one or two people I know!
    (I don’t your salary because I don’t know your grade or position on the scale, but I do know the minimum you could be getting. And, yes, I’m a Senior Lecturer so my salary is not so very far below the professorial minimum, but then I do have a perfectly comfortable living.)

  3. @Frances – yes, of course I know people have been through austerity before (my wife grew up in South Wales during the miner’s strike for one). My point was that it’s unusual for a generation to be worse off than their predecessors as they are predicting this one will be. I was just interested in what that does to their psychology and attitude to money really.
    @David – just a silly joke to make the point about the downward pressure on all professions. Yes, I do know I’m not really near the precariat. There was a study recently though that far more people hover just above the precariat than before (not OU profs), and this has an effect on people’s psychology and outlook (they feel less secure about life and the future). My point was I wonder what this means for today’s youth after generations of general upward trends.

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