Boomers, you folks had it easy

Emma Teitel says the anti-youth, ‘kids these days’ reflex is cynical beyond belief — especially coming from the Canadian baby boomer generation

by Emma Teitel

The Toronto Star ran a story recently about a 24-year-old “super intern” named Maeghan Smulders, who graduated from Mount Royal University with 29 job offers—all of which she rejected. Smulders figured if she was going to begin her career, she was going to do some research first. So ProjectONE12 was born, a postgraduate’s 112-day exploration into the world of unpaid internships. Smulders took stints in Toronto, Montreal and even San Jose, interning with 10 companies, all in the hopes of finding and landing her dream business job. She did. At the end of her seven-month journey (which she documented online) she took a job at Beyond the Rack, a Canadian online retail start-up. “Being in all the different places,” she said, reminiscing about the project, “you get a taste for culture and you get a taste for not just the work you’re doing, but the people there. I really wanted to find an environment I could really grow in.” Don’t we all.

Maeghan Smulders is not spoiled. She worked incredibly hard and obviously incredibly well to rack up those 29 job offers, and an additional 18 during ProjectONE12. But a hard job well done doesn’t make you a “super intern.” Money does: a reality that both our increasingly ageist media and government don’t like to acknowledge. Because while it’s true that the economy has severely limited our postgrad opportunities and unpaid internships are replacing the entry-level job, it’s also true that it costs a lot of money to work for free. Log onto Smulders’ website and you’ll see a heading called “sponsors,” under which is listed (among a few other groups) “my Toronto family.”

Funny. We have the same sponsor. Mine was kind enough to fund my three-month internship (for which I was extremely lucky to have been paid at all) and all 22 years of my life preceding. I would not be writing this column right now were it not for my sponsors. Thank you, Jay and Karen. Sorry about the trip to Curacao.

Unfortunately not everyone has such generous sponsors, parents or otherwise (or a sponsor who can afford to be that generous).  In fact, most people don’t. Yet our elders in the Conservative party (ahem: “There is no bad job”) and the media (isn’t it awesome when Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente writes a column railing against Gen Y kids for not finding jobs followed by a column about how she’ll never retire?) point to ambitious grads like Smulders, or the Toronto girls who pitched a tent at a busy intersection to attract potential employers—in order to illustrate their allegedly simple and logical point: times are tough and us kids need to get off our butts and just work a little harder. In a recent column, the National Post’s resident killjoy, Barbara Kay, went to town on my generation after a twentysomething waiter knocked over a glass of water in her lap and didn’t apologize (which Kay immediately interpreted as, “Because being Gen Y means never having to say you’re sorry”). She was equally shocked and appalled that according to an October 2011 National Report Card on Youth Financial Literacy (which I have now seen cited in at least three Gen-Y bemoaning editorials) 70 per cent of high school students “erroneously assumed they’d own their own home in 10 years,” and “the average respondent overestimated his future earnings by 300 per cent.” Wow. Breaking news! Teenagers have dreams. Apparently it has become a crime to think beyond your means.

The anti-youth, “kids these days” attitude of many older people today, in reference to the ongoing  student protests in Quebec and the Occupy movement, is cynical beyond belief—especially coming from a generation that in their youth could afford to be protesting about “big” things like the military-industrial complex, and not “little” things like tuition hikes and unemployment. When Margaret Wente was 23 years old, a chocolate bar cost 10 cents and a box of Corn Flakes cost 25. Tuition at the University of Toronto was well under $1,000. My father, who is roughly the same age as Wente, says he could make enough money at his summer job (he was a camp unit head) to pay for his tuition at U of T in the fall. And his books.

Which isn’t to say we deserve what they had, but it’s odd for the Canadian baby boomer generation to be so curmudgeonly about “kids today” when prospects in their younger years were so much better than ours. To hear them kvetch it’s as though they were slaving away in factories on a few cents a day, instead of dropping out to bask in free love and patchouli oil, all the while marking time until they could drop back in and get a job working at Uncle Bernie’s sportswear company.

So if you’re a baby boomer, whether you think youth unemployment is an easily solvable problem—if we’d just get off our butts and stop banging pots and pans together—or you think it’s the unfortunate, unavoidable given of our time, please don’t be so surly about it.  Can our cohort seem entitled?  Sure.  After all, our parents raised us to think that the sky was the limit. Will that sense of entitlement get us a job? Not likely. If we’re spoiled, we’re also screwed. This isn’t a statement of self-pity, but a sober description of the economic reality of what it is to be young today. Do I think it’s hopeless? No way—screwed is not doomed. But we live every day with a kind of dissonance and insecurity that your generation never had to deal with. It might be nice if you kept that in mind.

Boomers, you folks had it easy

Patrick Lor

For more on this, read John Geddes’ blogpost: Who had it easy? The job market greeting graduates




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Boomers, you folks had it easy


  1. When Margaret Wente was 23 years old, a chocolate bar cost 10 cents and a box of Corn Flakes cost 25. Tuition at the University of Toronto was well under $1,000.

    Uh huh. And what was the average wage then? Some context is needed, Teitel.

    My first job, at age 14 (1978) paid $1.75/hr before taxes. By then prices were higher than the ones you quote (memory is fuzzy but I think it was something like 35 cents for a bar by then). Many things today, as a percentage of income, are cheaper.

    I somewhat see your point; however, not all boomers had it easy. As a tail-end boomer, I entered the workforce full-time in a recession. I have always been stuck with the leavings of my generation. And yes, I have definitely worked hard for what I have.

    I also worry about what it would mean to be unemployed. With so many others looking for work, if I could find anything it would likely take a while and mean a significant pay cut. Bye-bye house; bye-bye daughter’s education fund (meagre as it is). And that’s not because I haven’t been careful with my finances.

    Your article is every bit as jaded and cynical about my generation as you claim we are about yours.

    I don’t tend to lump everyone in together by generations; the generalizations mislead. I work with quite a few of your generation and find them generally bright and knowledgeable. Yes, there are others who are spoiled or rude… but that’s humanity, and no generation has an exclusive hold on those traits.

    In short… get over yourself.

    • Canadian GDP per capita income in 1973 was $4,078.04 in 1973 dollars. So if tuition was $1000 it would cost about a quarter of the average salary.
      Today per capita GDP is $40,594.89. Tuition at University of Toronto runs about $4,570, or 11.3% of the average salary.
      In the United States, where tuition has gone through the roof, I think people might have a point. However, tuition in Canada has roughly kept pace with inflation, while incomes have increased. The bottom line is that it should be easier, not harder, for students to pay for tuition.
      That said I think the “tuition is so high now” line is a red herring. The people who get into university may face bad prospects relative to their unrealistic expectations. But the people who are really suffering in this economy are the people with no prospects. Young university graduates face an unemployment rate of 6.9% versus over 23% for high school dropouts, yet newspaper columnists cry bloody murder about the fate of the former over the latter.

      • per capita GDP isn’t the right indicator for how much money is available to pay tuition, it’s the amount available to someone without a college education who can only work part time and summers.

        • The numbers you want to look at are the CPI ( consumer price index ) and average earnings and housing costs – the CPI excludes most of the cost of rent and/or home ownership. Shelter right now costs between 200-500% what it did, proportionally, in 1970. CPI is roughly 10-30% higher, proportionally, than in 1970.

          Anyone saying that there is not an economic disadvantage to youth today hasn’t bothered to crunch the numbers. It’s there, it’s real, and it’s at the heart of the generation gap.

          • That’s definitely a number to consider, but possibly not when looking at school costs in relative isolation.

          • Also, CPI as an indicator is full of holes. Using only the ones that support your cause is somewhat dishonest on either side of the debate. It doesn’t account for quality/durability improvements that make a product last longer or be more efficient. It also is based on a basket of goods that doesnt represent current spending habits or needs. What was the average internet bill in 1972?
            Just to be clear, I don’t have a horse in this race, because I think it is ridiculous. I’m 27 years old, I am significantly better off than my parents were at my age. They worked much harder, and faced much more adversity than I do, that is a fact, but they never begrudge me my relative comfort, because that comfort is the goal they worked so hard toward.

          • You might want to rethink absolutely everything you wrote here.

          • Excellent criticism.

          • Whoops, didn’t think it went through the first time…

          • CPI is a flawed metric for comparing relative wealth generation to generation. It is based on a basket of good, and the price of said basket year over year. The problem with that is like you said above, the basket no longer represent realistic spending habits. It fails to take into account increases and decreases in percentage of overall spending. It also fails to account for durability and longevity increases of goods. And how much exactly was the average internet or cell phone bill in 1972?
            That being said, I think this whole debate is a joke. One generation will always be thought of as lazy and ill mannered by the one before it, and think the same of the one after it. It was as true in Ancient Greece as it will be for time eternal.
            I’m 27, and much better off than my parents were at my age. I live a life of relative comfort, while they faced obstacles and hardship beyond what I have ever seen. However they don’t begrudge me my cushy life, because it is the realization of thier hard work. The exact same was true for thier parents before them, and if I’m lucky, I’ll live to see the fruits of my labour be enjoyed by my children.

          • Quite a few errors there, Chris.
            First, while the CPI is based on a basket of goods, that basket is updated. Updates used to take place every five years. Now it is updated yearly, based on current spending patterns.
            The CPI is also adjusted for changing quality and for new products as these come on the market (with a lag of a year or two).
            Third, the CPI attempts to measure how much households must spend to maintain the same standard of living over time. This is the right measure to compare changing tuition fees. After all, tuition is part of household spending. The more you spend on tuition, the less you have left over for food, shalter, etc.
            But I do agree that comparing different generations’ experiences, while interesting, is not really meaningful. In particular, money is only part of life. How do you compare the rest?

          • You’re right that CPI is the relevant number. It’s gone up five-fold since the early 1970s, and the tuition of $1,000 in 1972 is now worth $5,000, i.e. not far from current tuition.
            You’re wrong when you say that the CPI excludes most of the cost of shelter. On the contrary, it includes these items completely.

          • It’s not like the CPI is just numbers all added up to spit out a ratio, each component of the CPI is weighted – the CPI doesn’t catch housing bubbles for example and there are calculation biases against shelter.

            You can find academic articles floating about on the various CPI biases, especially when it comes to housing costs.

      • No matter how you slice it, knowing that a boomer could have saved up for ONE summer and bought a brand new sports car, speaks volumes.

        But to be honest, if our generation could rape the future, as the boomers did, we would do it in a heartbeat.

    • Making such a statement as she did with no context is either sloppy or dishonest. Inexusable.

    • Reality is that worker wages have remained flat in respect to inflation while cost of living – including education, housing, food (critical component of gaining an education is eating) have gone up. If you take a look at the CPI and inflation charts you get an honest idea on how much life costs now in relation to what it cost in, say, 1965 or 1970.

      Reality is that the Boomer generation is the primary voting block and Boomers are the ones proposing and passing laws that make it illegal for
      youth today to protest, something they had the right and privileged to
      do at will when they were young. Wearing a mask at a rally is about to
      carry a harsher penalty than second degree murder. The unemployment
      rates for people under 25 are dangerous, and the perks being handed out
      to those over 55 – even when companies are failing, are insane. This all traces back to the Boomers, and whether or not you are a nicer version of the Boomers or not isn’t the point – the point is there is a combination of financial and age based discrimination that is making it VERY tough on young people – much harder than it was for the Boomers. The core of this is finances, and the mess that young people have to face.

      Making a snide comment like “In short… get over yourself” exactly typifies the dissonance here in Canada between the generations. The people needing that advice are the ones in charge, who’ve stacked the cards against their children, and continue to do so in ever increasing ways.

      I’ve got a technical degree, a bachelors degree, and 10 years experience
      in my industry and I’m lucky and happy to earn what I earn – which is
      modest. I’ve been through FOUR economic recessions in my life, THREE of them during my working life. ( 1980′s, 1990′s, dot-com crash, housing crash ). Proportionally I have more experience and education than my
      parents ever gained, and proportionally I earn about 20% less in buying
      power than they did. So while I sympathize with a hard working life –
      I’ve lived one – I am entirely on the side of these justifiably angry
      young people. It’s not fair, it’s not just, and it is a violation of the
      expectations they were raised to have.

      Here’s my favourite quote for this entire mentality:

      “Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn’t know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.” – B.Traven

      • See, nearly everything you say in here about my generation is what we said about the generation that preceded it. And that ’80s recession you’re referring to is the one I started looking for my first full-time job in – so I’ve been through those exact same recessions. How do you figure they were tougher on you than on someone my age?

        My parents were better off than me. Maybe mine is better off than yours will be at the same age. I’m not at all convinced it’s a generational thing; I think those in power let some of the power and wealth escape them for a while, but have been very busy reeling it back in. And this generational BS plays to their advantage.

      • What law makes it illegal to protest ?

      • Also , “something (protests) they had the right and privileged to do at will when they were young”.
        Really? I don’t remember that. It may be age! In fact, as a former Montrealer, I remember that any public protests or parade in the streets of Motreal were forbidden by law for years following the 1968 Saint-Jean Baptiste parade and the FLQ crisis. There was no Santa Claus parade, maybe a decade, maybe more. Protests were very small in scope and in public squares. Blocking the streets like we see now is not something I remember.

      • Marcus! Get a grip, Man!

        I am a Boomer and I would never *ever* vote for a law that stifled protest. You insult me. You insult all of us who are appalled by what is happening. Are you thinking at all? I easily hazard a guess that many of the votes for stifling protest came from the privileged and/or misguided members of *your* generation.

        Wow! I take comfort in the absolute knowledge that not all of your generation is as shallow as you seem to be.

    • Your first job at age 14 was full-time? Because otherwise it isn’t all that relevant.
      Now do the same math as hosertohoosier with personal income taxes, and then get back to us with who needs to get over themselves. I’m a boomer, too, probably around the same age as you, and when other kids my age were talking about University, they were talking about mommy and daddy paying at least a portion, same as now. Only, back then mommy and daddy were relatively happy to pay taxes in order to, among other things, keep tuition relatively affordable–for those who went to University, at least. Back then a lot more of us didn’t. Because we could get a job that at least could pay the bills, without a degree.

      In other words, we got to go to University and not come out with a ton of debt, and then had our tax rates drop by more than half when we were bringing in the big bucks that University education gave us. (We and us here means our generation, not necessarily you and for sure not me.) As Conservative MPs seem to like to say lately, “We’ll take no lessons” from your generation on who is spoiled.

      • My point about my first job was to put into context Teitel’s 10-cent bar etc – she framed it without reference to wages, inflation rate, etc. It was also to offset her nonsensical suggestion that earlier generations had everything handed to them; kids today are far more spoonfed than when I grew up.

        I came out without a ton of debt because (a) I worked at minimum wage and actually saved the money to pay for a good chunk of my education; and (b) my parents saved to pay for the rest. It wasn’t easy. In Nfld where I grew up unemployment was higher than anything today’s generation have faced. So yeah I do have a right to tell them to get over themselves. They aren’t the first to face adversity and they won’t be the last.

        That’s not to say I’m against helping them – I’m just saying this article has a lot of crap in it, and as such sounds spoiled and whiny.

      • It is no surprise that mommy and daddy were happy to pay taxes to keep tuition affordable if they were payers of tuition. But then, in terms of tuition, they were not really payers of taxes, but receivers of taxes. Their action was hardly virtuous – they were simply happy to get other people’s money.

      • it’s so easy to blame someone else, rather than taking it’s own responsabilities, unfortunately that’s the new “norm” today, might as well blame the generation before the baby boomers while at it, or, blame Chistopher Colombus, or you know? It’s kind of coward, an easy way out,
        as far as i’m concerned.

    • she did provide context. her father made enough working at a camp during the summer to pay for tuition and books. meanwhile working as a waitress for the summer (and struggling to even get full-time hours) doesn’t even cover tuition.

      also, she isn’t being jaded or cynical about the baby boomer’s, us members of Gen Y don’t resent them for the opportunities and culture their time afforded them, we simply think they should cut us some slack and stop being so hypocritical when they accuse us of being entitled, lazy or politically uninvolved.

  2. Emma’s living in a self-entitled dream world.
    Go back to watching MTV, young lady. Come back when you have something mature to say.

  3. This is all I read: “WAAAH, people think we’re spoiled, WAAAH, we’re not, one student even traveled 5 hours away for an internship :O. WAAAH, but it’s hard for everyone else who’s not as resourceful as she is, you know. WAAAH. We just want you to be nicer to us, waaaaaaaaah.”

  4. We’re entitled AND we have it tougher than previous generations – those statements aren’t mutually exclusive. Back in the 70′s there were lots of good blue collar jobs for non-graduates, while university graduates were few, and could easily launch professional careers. Today those blue collar jobs are largely gone (apart from some mining jobs, and opportunities associated with the oil fields), while the number of graduates is far larger (probably double) the number of professional jobs. In that kind of environment, nepotism and parental resources are probably a bigger predictor of success than hard work or ability.
    Gen Y needs to radically adjust its expectations in this environment. University grads taking bad jobs is not necessarily the answer, however. Because remember, most people still don’t graduate from university. As university grads move into low-paid work, non-graduates move into the unemployment line. University graduates lose from this move as well – given the choice between two people with relevant education, one a recent grad, and one somebody who has worked as a barista for five years, they’re going to pick the recent grad. So there is a limited window before one loses much of the utility from one’s degree.
    The answer (or at least part of it), is to radically change how we think about location. Where in the world is there a shortage of human capital? Well what about in rapidly developing economies in East, South and Central Asia? What about the oil-rich Middle East? In those countries, westerners can leverage their fancy degrees in exchange for relevant experience. It probably helps if one learned a foreign language, but there are probably jobs in English as well. This is precisely what the British started doing, as the domestic British economy began to stagnate in the late 19th century – they sought out opportunities in the Empire. This is not only beneficial to the job-seeker, it also relieves pressure on non-graduates, who will be able to get jobs if university grads heed my advice and “go East, young man”.
    *And for the record, yes, I seriously considered/interviewed for jobs in the Middle East, Central Asia and East Asia in my recent job search – although I opted for a job in North America.

    • Good point. Generations of Newfoundlanders – me among them – had to leave home in search of work. The ancestors of most Canadians did the same in coming here.

      Expand your search and strike while the iron (or degree) is hot.

    • Lots of good paying jobs here on Vancouver Island .Welders and fitters needed.

  5. With 29 job offers I would not say her options were limited. You can’t ignore facts to get a slanted point across.

  6. It is also interesting to note that she seems to know how someone over 60 years old felt 40 years ago.

  7. Each individual has their own set of circumstances and one path does not suit all skill sets.
    If I could do it over I often think I would have hit the oil patch right out of high school and used those earnings on a decided career with a better understanding of life out of school.
    ( It took a bit of exploration, bad hours, bad pay and bad jobs before working into an enjoyable one.)
    In the end it’s the effort you put into your choices that will determine your success rate.

    Best advice given in college. “You are not here to be given a job, you are here to learn the skills to get one.”

  8. I can’t believe how rude these comments are. If anyone thinks that Gen Y has it easier they’re thinking of things from a skewed perspective. Each generation has faced their own challenges. Gen Y faces the challenge of surviving the Baby Boomer aging, healthcare, retirement effect on the economy. Baby Boomers faced the challenge of competing with Baby Boomers. These things are different, and saying one group has it worse than the other is discrediting the unique challenges.

    The reality is times are tough. I’m 25 and I believe I’ve been very lucky. We’ve moved several times as my wife pursues her career and I’ve been able to find gainful employment every time. But I’ve been competing against dozens and even hundreds of applicants. I say I’ve been lucky because I have sales experience and knowledge of technology. Those two things combined have helped me sell myself to potential employers. Without those I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had.

    Am I more qualified than other applicants? Not always. Am I better suited? I’m not sure. But I’ve sold myself as a person. Not everyone can do that. And for those qualified candidates who don’t have a lengthy resume to do their selling for them, they need sales skills. But the reality is not everyone has sales skills. Sadly, that means that young 20-somethings with short resumes and no sales skills are going to have a hard time beating out 50-somethings with long resumes.

    • Tuition is jumping, the amount of jobs you can get without a degree is falling as are wages. it’s pretty rough.

    • Perhaps it’s fair to consider the environmental degradation that will impact health, health care and health care costs down the road. The boomers will be in the grave when that bill comes due – long after, of course, they’ve depleted government coffers with their old age health care drain.
      Yes every generation faces hurdles, but the boomers should know better than to look the other way as their grandchildren’s environment is traded for wealthy boomer prosperity now.

  9. I was born in 1946 so I’m a leading-edge boomer and have seen those behind me grow up…..something people never thought they’d do. And really, until they started turning 30 or more…they didn’t.

    My parents generation ragged on them constantly….’get a haircut’, ‘get a job’, and they heard all the stories beginning ‘Why when I was a boy’… I walked to school, 5 miles, in the snow, barefoot…and all the other exaggerations. Later it changed to ‘Why when I was your age I had…’ and boomers were told all about marriages and kids and mortgages and driving old clunkers.

    A great many boomers, not all by any means but a great many, were hippies or pseudo-hippies…bumming around the countryside, protesting, rioting, living in communes, dumpster-diving, pan-handling, busking, and later ….doing drugs.

    So to think that now boomers are saying….’kids today!’….is a great laugh. I’m just waiting for someone to call them ‘young whippersnappers!’

    Boomers….who first became hippies, and then yuppies who spent like mad….are now turning into their parents and probably starting sentences with ‘why when I was your age…..!’

    Twas ever thus.

    • Coincidence, I was born in 1946 too. Of course, we may have had different experiences. We came to Canada when I was four, and we were dirt poor. My grandmother worked until she was 77. I started delivering papers when I was 11 and got my first real job when I was 16, to save up enough to go to university.
      We did have lots of jobs when we graduated. But it was not all smooth sailing. The 1982 recession was nastier than what we see now, and unemployment was higher. I’ve been laid off twice, once when I was 43 and once when I was 53. Started over in a new industry, developing new skills.
      The other thing is this focus on jobs and money, to the exclusion of everything else. Since you were born in 1946, you might remember polio, and the lack of health insurance until we were 24, and little or no birth control or abortions — if the girl got pregnant, you got married at 18, as happened to two of my friends. And we didn’t worry about the environment and what might happen in twenty or thirty years. We worried about nuclear war and being burned to a crisp the next day.

      • Yeah, the fifties were a repressive time….lots of jobs initially because of the war and rebuilding, but they petered out after that, and then it was said the generation ahead of us had all the jobs and we were a huge group that couldn’t find work. I was born here, and I definitely remember the iron lungs, and the criminal charges for birth control and abortion, and people not going to the doctor because they couldn’t afford it.

        Not a time I’d choose to go back to. It was never a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ kind of world.

  10. I also thoroughly enjoyed the absence of any mention of immigration prior to, during, or post world war. That would be right around the time previous generations had it so much easier, remember those ‘easy’ times of the World Wars? The encampment? The familial devastations? Cake walks for these rude, ungrateful, pompous boomers who came to Canada and were happy changing dirty diapers because, at least, it was work. Indeed, those would be the same boomers who then owned the diaper making company, but perseverance and drive after blood, sweat, and tears are so overrated these days.

  11. Unpaid internships will and are taking their toll on the creative industry such as news reporting, as ability to work for free becomes a bigger factor than talent. “it’s good enough” will and is simply replacing “very well done”.

  12. As a fifty something, university educated trades person, white anglo-saxon native I say thank you for your words! History may very well revile ours as one of the most selfish generations to have lived, wtness the serious erosion in our lifetime of: politics (polarization/deception/lack of accountability), economics (decline of the middle class battered to the benefit of corporate interests), the level of humanity (wars extending ever longer tolerated with blissful content, cut backs in education, social services & foreign aid), the environment (science/climate change denying), the rise of religious intolerance, marketting of fear and siege, loss of journalisitic integrity, the state of housing affordability and the list goes on …….
    You are the future and as much as embarassing as it is to ask, I hope your generation is able to correct our errors. We’ve selfishly “taken it all” because we can; the groundwork for our success was laid by our parents, and theirs who sacrificed on our behalf. With few qualms and little respect, we’ve enjoyed a blessed lifestyle. You have my support …..
    A timely observation well said!

    • It’s nice to hear an apologist from your generation. Not that we need apologies, we clearly need collaboration and solutions. But I have thought long and hard about the actual consequences of simply being born in the 80s and I think you hit on most of them. I would also say that a great deal of the entitlement and misdirection of my own generation stems from our elder’s disengagement from the system. My parents and educators taught very little about civic life and much less about the structure of government, the economy and the workforce. Myself and my peers were never challenged to envision our place within the system. I realize many of my elder influences were probably operating within the mores of an invisible caste system that is deeply entrenched in the minds of many Atlantic Canadians. Even today my own parents still operate as if governance is a given. Find a job, work it, retire, pension and die is the legacy I seem to have inherited. It’s a bit reductionist in today’s world, hinged on interpreting the bigger picture(s) and maximizing the potential of the individual. I can’t help but feel that I’m forced to pay the price for the previous generations lack of involvement and tutelage, for their allowing so much of our decision process to be handled by self interested politicos. And I’m sure there are tens and tens of thousands of people who feel it with me, plenty of whom haven’t thought it through quite so even handedly, causing them to react with an air of entitlement or perhaps with wilful ignorance and unchecked anger.

  13. The most important point in the article is the spot-on critique of unpaid internships. Employers are taking advantage of “free” labour. This clearly discriminates against those who cannot afford to work for free. To the extent that employers are using interns to do jobs that truly are necessary (and clearly this is happening), the intern is actually taking a job away from someone who should be getting paid. It’s a form of exploitation that should be strictly limited. Young people need entry-level jobs (even if they don’t pay very well) not internships

    • I see your point, but I wonder how most companies would respond to a restriction on internship. I suspect that while there would be some new positions, the most likely response would be to simply hire nobody, and dump the responsibilities that would have gone to interns on existing employees. As a result, even fewer people would be able to get experience in their relevant industries.
      I think the surge in internships are a symptom of other problems. One such problem is that institutions that traditionally signalled ability to employers, such as universities and high schools, do so less effectively today. Grade inflation is rampant, and students are not sorted or ranked in ways that distinguish better students from worse ones. At their worst, there can be a tacit agreement between students and teachers wherein students forgive a lack of rigour in exchange for lax grading. A recent study in the book Academically Adrift found that 45% of college students experienced no improvement in their critical thinking skills after 2 years of university (and those that improved, did so only modestly).
      Educational institutions are also disconnected from employers and have little sense of how classroom skills may be relevant to the future careers of students. In a job interview at a university, I once asked if the department had any data on what sort of career paths their graduates end up in. Their response was along the lines of “wow, that might be a good idea to collect.” Private institutions have sort of stepped into the breach (witness the rise in certification tests), but standardized tests make for poor gatekeepers.

  14. Also as I’ve noticed people seem to forget how their own views have changed. Example

    A Gen Y talking with their therapist

    Y: I get so pissed off with the older generation today

    Therapist: Why?

    Me: Because when I was growing up we were force fed the idea
    that if we didn’t want to be “flipping burgers” then we had
    better go to college.

    Therapist: And?

    Me: And now we’ve gone to college, have degrees and can’t
    get a job; the same people call us entitled a$$holes because we refuse to flip burgers.

    Therapist: Ah..

    Watch now as the entitlement of those who expect to retire at 65 with full benefits, blossoms into ensuring the rest of use work until we drop to fund it; is ignored by the most entitled generation.
    Oh let’s not forget the silly F35s and god knows how many more gazebos and other shiny objects that this PM is going to spend our future on.

  15. Boomers did not have it easy. I have seen what my parents went through to raise us and it wasn’t nice or easy. My parents started in a run down shack off my grand parents farm with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. It took YEARS of hard work for both of them to even afford a basic 2 bedroom house in B.C., not a great neighbourhood and my dad worked as a truck driver, my mom, stay-at-home. We were by NO means weatlhy. The difference in those days was that couples settled for LESS so that the mother could be at home with the children and raise them on 1 income ONLY. We didnt’ live in the FANCY, 1/4 of a million dollar homes that young couples EXPECT today. We didn’t go into DAYCARES everyday and our mothers run to work and have to pay $30 plus dollars a day to keep us there, we didn’t have 2 brand new cars with car payments, NO fancy campers to go campiing two months out of the year, NO big screen t.vs., NO cell phones to pay for, NO winter holidays every year to either Mexico or Hawaii, NO fancy dinners out so that you don’t have to cook, NO fancy designer clothing and the list goes on. This is why our younger generation is having such a TOUGH time paying for everything because you want for TOO much. Most baby boomers started out with LITTLE or nothing in the beginning but worked HARD for 50 plus years to get what they now have at retirement. You can’t get married at age: 25 or 30 and expect to have everything the FIRST year, We need to go back to living within our MEANS and not living solely on CREDIT. The Debt for most people is what is causing all the stress in todays society.

    • You may not have had big screen TV’s or CELL PHONES (no DUH), but you sure did have ‘SHIFT’ keys on your TYPEWRITERS, didn’t you?

      • You nothing better to say than commenting on the shift Keys on a keyboard, REALLY?

        • REALLY. I nothing better to say.

    • I totally agree with you, and ignore the person complaining about the shift keys, I totally understand. You are one person here making total sense.

  16. Could be a gen x’ the forgotten generation. Even our guidance councilers told us “forget it your screwed, the boomers will leave you debt and the generation y and the millenials will take the jobs, you will be to old by then

  17. Funny, AMERICANS are not protesting and all THEIR (tax) money
    goes to fighting Wars and their Military.

    • Not protesting? Do you recall the Occupy movement?

  18. Interesting article. However, extraordinary hard work in an irrelevant field and not being able to find a good paying job is not new. If you had taken your Phd. in Electronics Engineering you would not even had to look, the employers would be courting you. Better luck next life.

  19. one can only imagine the bouquet of challenges youth face…… it is no wonder so many just stay plugged into the XBox in moms basement until they are 30….

  20. She was an Executive Assistant and Marketing Specialist before earning her degree working for a home mortgage company since the age of 14 (her father owns a home renovation company… see the connection?). With that kind of experience straight out of university, it is no surprise she received offers from multiple startup tech companies for little or no pay (please note these were not esteemed companies). Even her online media campaign was relatively weak considering most of her videos only mustered a meager 200 views. A video of me dancing in highschool has over a 1000, and she made it on the front page of the paper… The lack of interest is astounding! Finally, Beyond the Rack created a position for her for a new initiative that has her creating new initiatives: “Her role will be to manage and start a new department within the company that focuses on marketing and new business opportunities.” Sounds to me like they just wanted to make the paper… Too bad no one cared.

    • You make it sound as if creating a new department and new initiatives is a bad thing, or somehow less important than existing departments or initiatives. You also seem to discount the fact that she’s worked hard since she was 14, as if that somehow gives her an unfair leg up. It’s not an unfair leg up, because she worked for it.

      As far as her online campaign, I’m unfamiliar with it. But I’d suggest that her 200 views/video were the people she was actually targeting with the campaign, whereas the 1000 viewers of your dance video probably weren’t looking for much of anything, much less willing to give you anything after watching it. If marketing were all about the number of impressions, all you’d need to do to be successful would be to buy a super bowl ad.

      • A new initiative to create new initiatives (new business opportunities) makes no sense. It makes even less sense to give such a position to an employee whos only worked for you for one month. What does that say about your company?
        I’m willing to bet 3/4 of those views were fellow students. My high school example was just to show how minimal her reach was considering she made the paper.
        I worked since I was 14 too. First at zellers, then I got a PAID internship for another retailer during my university studies, and then I was offered full time employment by said retailer (the only intern that did). You cannot get an office job at 14 without connections, even less a mortgage firm. I got my internship due to connections and know for a fact that my company only hires their interns through nepotism. So what’s the difference between me and this girl? I do not portray myself as an inspiration as that would be a slap to the face of anyone who anyone who hasn’t been GIVEN a foot in the door.

  21. I guess all this GDP inflation this inflation that, cpi. blocks out the fact that in the seventies, my step dad got a job, lived at home worked for one summer and bought a camaro off the lot brand new. Try doing that now?? Yea right a Brand New Camaro is about 40,000? Back then you didn’t need a university or special trade education to get a job that would make you enough money so you could save for your education. And if you argue it’s all the same to pay tuition and this and that your wrong. When your 20 paying rent, tuition, food, while working at a shit job (because you don’t have a degree yet) dental bills car insurance, prescription drugs who knows. its EXTREMELY hard. just to work enough to pay the bills while going to school full time? It’s not hard to see there is more people now competing for less jobs. Way more people what was the population back then,compared to now? What was the unemployment rate back then compared to now? My grandfather walked on the dock in England in the fifties and learned on the job how to weld, he ended his career as a boilermaker making six figures, with no college education. Its different times now, back then everything you used wasn’t made in China, we were still manufacturing things ourselves. A whole Class of civilization in North America was decimated by exporting work to foreign labour for cheaper. Times are different. its not hard to see. And the baby boomers should back off into a corner because they are the ones who crucified the planet and left us in the enviromental meltdown. They just won a war and everyone was happy, all we have infront of us is war. but not over ideals, over water. So yea I think things are looking a little bleak.

    • Andrew, it’s not only the price of things, but what we want to buy that makes a difference as well. Okay a Camaro might be 40G’s, but then again a low end Kia is under 15G…try something used, and you’ll pay even less. The point is not to compare models, but rather the choice and need. The Gen Y era is all about having that status gadget, having the most, newest and best thing. I am from the preceeding Gen X and we were almost as bad. I went to school and paid my own just fine. I never had more than I needed. I had friends working and studying and they did just fine as engineers, some have even made enough to buy their own Ferrari. That said, it’s more about choices you make – you either get hat you need or don’t – the choice is yours. I’ll agree though, today’s standards are going higher and higher. I once applied for, and lost, a job working in a warehouse that needed a university education…just to ship boxes…insane. PS. Conservative policy left us with the environmental disaster…as much as capitalism is destroying everything else.

  22. So there are no baby boomers living in poverty … and if they are is it because they did not take advantage of all the wonderous wealth that was placed before them in their youth? There was no dissodance and insecurity in the 70s and 80s? Are you kidding me? The only difference is back then there was no social media for us to gripe on.

  23. Enough of the whining!

    I am a baby boomer who arrived in Canada driving a VW bug packed with all my earthy belongings and about $200 in 1969 (no debt, thanks, Dad, who to his utter under-educated, hard-working, single-parent-raised amazement was earning a hundred thousand in 1970).

    I married a US war protester (we called them ‘draft dodgers’) who had an old Mercury and less cash. Both of us had a university education, but he could not find well-paying work due to lack of ‘Canadian-experience”. I took any job I

    could get as did he! He eventually after several years of iffy jobs took a position that led to a lucrative career path that continues today (we are now past ‘retirement age’).

    In the ensuing years we have put two sons through private high school, LESS EXPENSiVE university bachelors and masters degrees without loans. They earned some, we made up the rest. They are now both gainfully employed with families – however neither own a home owner as yet ’cause one is in Vancouver and the other in Toronto.

    We live in a waterfront house (not the Pacific or Muskoka, yet with a beautiful view!) worth just short of a million with a mortgage paid off in 1 1/2 years, when SURPRISE, we plan to be both retired. Our investment counselor is impressed with ‘how much we saved’ and I tell him it is what we saved, but what we have not SPENT.

    No, we do not take holidays in Europe, Mexico, Tahiti, etc. nor do our ‘kids’. We do not wear designer clothes or eat out more than once a month (and I am a chef and food writer!). We invested in our future and that of our family.

    We live well, entertain friends, spend the minimum and are happy to pay our son’s family way from the west to the east each year as did my US Dad (only the reverse).

    Enough of the ‘victim’ for the current generation and more of the ‘can do’.

    Oh, then there is my friend who arrived in Canada with even less than we did, speaking neither official language and graduated 4-years later from U of T with honours to go onto …

    Whine less, strive more, eh?

  24. How about ending Canada’s idiotic policy of mass immigration so that Canadian grads can get the entry level jobs that they need to start there careers? What is the point of flooding the country with foreign workers who should be at home improving their home countries instead of filling jobs in Canada that should be held by young Canadians?

  25. “But we live every day with a kind of dissonance and insecurity that your generation never had to deal with. It might be nice if you kept that in mind.” Rather pretentious here, which makes it hard to take this opinion seriously. I am not sure that the proposed facts about …”prospects in their younger years were so much better than ours…” or “…This isn’t a statement of self-pity, but a sober description of the economic reality of what it is to be young today…” are really that factual either. There is a fine line between stats and reality, and unfortunately Emma seems to be writing without much conviction. IMO there is little substance and much flash, while dealing with a subject that garners a stronger grasp of the material opined about. I am surprised that Aaron Rand covered this at all…and a little disappointed really, as I had some higher expectations. My bad…

  26. Times are tough for boomers too, and for some boomers times have never been easy. Ok, sure. Some boomers – Wente for example – have always had it easy that is true. But to paint the entire generation with the same brush puts your insight in the same thick fog as Margaret Wente’s.

    It’s also true that for some 20-somethings, life has been a piece of pitless cherry cake since the day they were born. You see rich boomer men and rich boomer women and you think “Those Boomers!” What do you think when you see ‘successful’ men and women of your own generation?

    It’s not about the Boomers. At sixty I make an average salary. There are some 20-somethings making more than I do and who will no doubt ‘retire’ before I am forced by incapacity to leave the workforce and enter a life of poverty for which your generation will perhaps have no sympathy at all.

    Believe me: some of you will end up poor and some of you will end up rich.

    That’s the way it goes. That’s the way it’s always gone.

  27. This present day social problem is partly generational. Part of it is also the lack of spiritual focus, notice when the 10 Commandments were left behind by the majority our problems began to magnify . As for the Bill 78 , it affects HOW you protest , not that you are able to.

  28. Give me a break!!!! I am not a boomer…I am one of those Gen X’s no one talks about. Emma, youth unemployment was higher when I graduated ( 17.9%) than it is today (14.3%). And although we had to downgrade our expectations, we survived. We were grateful for the 6 month contracts we got out of school (no one was offering full time jobs) and eventually that parlayed into better opportunities. Gen Y suffers from the same sense of entitlement as their boomer parents and it’s really getting tiresome. Do I sympathise? Absolutely. But frankly…enough already.

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