Young adults have fewer opportunities today than people of the same age group in the recent past. What I mean by opportunities I cannot rightly say. I could mean more access to jobs, and it would be fair to say there are fewer opportunities based on this. Maybe it could simply mean the opportunity to grow up in a loving and healthy home. The divorce rate and other choice metrics can corroborate this conclusion. It is hard to precisely define the meaning of this opportunity and how there is less of it for younger people, but what I do know is that in the U.S., Middle East, and in Europe (Sorry China you are not allowed) a large contingency of the discontent is coming from the younger crowds. Clearly something is bothering our young adults. It makes me think about them; the younger additions to society.
At first I wonder if they are courageous, bold, and good hearted. I wonder if they have the love and support of parents, elders, mentors that will encourage them to be strong and confident in today’s world. Then I think what generation was ever defined by such qualities before; however, the thought of the generations that suffered World War I and II quickly squashes my cynicism. Regardless, the truth maybe that there really hasn’t been a “perfect batch”. Each wave must respond as best they can to the situation they find themselves in.
What I am curious about is how the present set of circumstances will shape the young adults who must fight to make a place for themselves. It appears the prizes are getting fewer and smaller. For some the competition will become tougher and more consequential with each passing year. On this aspect I can sympathize with the Occupy Movement if only it were more clear that lack of opportunity was the conscious source of their discontent. I am sure it is a big part of it. If I had a clear shot at a future doing something I dreamed of I would not be so willing to spend my days voicing my irritation throughout a given urban area while risking pepper spray and arrest. Even so I get why it is being done at least in part.
Young people are also becoming a less potent voice in society as the percentage of people older than those 30 and below increase. Increasing life expectancies will have that effect. The real mean household income for the youngest of us has fallen to the lowest levels since the mid 90s. Unemployment in the same age range is still in the stratosphere, while job openings need to increase to peaks not yet seen to bring the number of young adults that are on the sidelines to a land resembling opportunity. Yes it can be said that there are fewer opportunities. At least fewer out-of-the-box opportunities. Craftiness and shrewdness will no doubt be a mark of the successful in this period more than ever.
I am not entirely convinced the picture is as desperate as this Grapes of Wrath scenario implies, but it will be tough for many more than what societies have experienced since perhaps the Great Depression. The added pressure can have a sharpening effect. You know – that which does not kill us. Even so the energy that a young adult is spending on survival is energy being drawn from actual thriving. Hardship can engender gratitude for what no longer is as much as it can engender resentment and bitterness for what might have been. A well examined life will know this truth well.