I’ve noticed a refrain over the last few years that troubles me. It goes something like this, “Young people these days are so lazy”.
I think there’s a misalignment between generations on what productivity means.
Hard work doesn’t look the same as it did 20 or 40 years ago. Folks are used to hailing skilled labor jobs or 100 hour work-weeks as hard working because they can physically see the evidence of effort and it manifested in things like buying a house or having a car.
But jobs have changed. Education has changed. The world has changed.
In the 1980s my parents got married at 22, bought a car, bought a house and had a kid by the time they were 30. They were unburdened by student debt, had good jobs and proceeded forward as expected.
I’m getting married in a couple months and I’ve had several people who I don’t even know tell me I’m too young to get married. They also told me I was smart for living with my parents when I graduated, advised me against buying a new car, and told me to hold off having any kids.
The people who are actively discouraging me from pursuing these traditional milestones are the same people measuring an entire generation against their old markers of productivity and finding them lacking.
So I would argue that we aren’t lazy, but that expectations of success are no longer in sync with what is realistic.
The fact of the matter is, the education that the workforce demands is exorbitantly expensive. Graduates move home because entry level jobs don’t pay enough to cover rent and student loan payments. I have friends who have more student loan debt than my parents paid for their first house. Their house.
In addition, society has conditioned an entire generation into thinking vocational education is an unworthy pursuit. Call me stupid but computer science degrees don’t translate well into plumbing. But a four-year degree is the only one seen worthy.
Meanwhile, there are analysts out there panicking that an entire block of the country’s population isn’t buying houses. Of course nobody is buying a house. The average college graduate has $30,000 in debt by the time they leave. That’s a down payment.
The point is, we aren’t a generation of lazy slackers. But, as a group we won’t reach the our milestones as proof of success at the same rate as previous generations. Perhaps adjusting the timeline by ten years would be realistic. Most people will get married around 30. They’ll have kids by 40. Hopefully, they will payoff their student loans by 50. It’s not lazy, it’s just realistic.