Millennials have lost faith in capitalism. Here's why

August 21, 2018
With wages lagging and the price of food, services and rent skyrocketing, the pressure on Millenials is immense.

Is it any wonder polls show 58% of Millennials think of socialism in a positive way? Many are questioning capitalism for the simple reason they are wondering how they will be able to afford to move out of home.

Housing once was a rite of passage in Australia. Now, it is barely considered a human right.

The definition of “housing stress” used by the Australian parliament is when households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. In Sydney, an average rent is 39% of the average income — about $80,000 a year. This means that an average rent is about $31,000 a year.

This is more than twice the amount of Newstart, more than 80% of an annual year’s wages (if you work full time at the minimum wage) and about 60% of the wage the federal government thinks is “sufficient” for you to afford to start paying back your Higher Education Contribution Scheme student debt.

For some Millennials this means continuing to live with family; for some it means commuting 90 minutes to work; and for many it means share housing, often well into your 30s. Although sharing housing can reduce the rent, it isn’t uncommon for students and young workers to pay $250-300 a week for single room accommodation in a share house.

For those not fortunate enough to find stable employment, that’s Newstart gone, completely, without food or bills.

You’ll notice I have not mentioned owning your own home. Quite simply, this is not the Great Australian Dream any more.

Being able to comfortably afford some personal space within an hour of some kind of employment, without having to rely on friends or extended family, is starting to feel like a pipe dream for many Millennials.

And the Millennials living near friends or extended family are the luckiest ones.

Perhaps this is obvious, especially when the Liberal millionaire PM Malcolm Turnbull recommends parents lend their offspring cash to buy their first home. The establishment sure has a bloated opinion of how many people have access to such family support.

A third of Millennials (defined as those under 35 years of age) have moved in the last 18 months to 2 years, according Australian Bureau of Statistics data, compared to 1 in 4 people between the ages of 35 and 45 and less for those who are older.

Many people my age have moved once, twice or a half dozen times – for work or study, most commonly.

Contrary to the government’s view that people won’t move for work, the fact is that many already do. People, particularly young people are moving constantly in the hopes of secure job prospects.

Of course those living below the poverty line are reluctant to move to the middle of nowhere, away from their support structures. But the reality is that thousands of people are making the move for work. With wages lagging behind and the price of food, services and rent skyrocketing, the pressure on Millenials is immense.

Although the official statistics show there has not been a significant shift towards greater casualisation, reality says otherwise. The statistics are yet to quantify the impact of Uber and the gig economy. These individuals are often categorised as under business owner statistics due to their ‘independent contractor’ status.

What is certain is that casual positions are more common among Millennials and other young Australians, and on current trends more and more people are working in part-time arrangements.

About 1 in 4 Millennials report that they work part time because that is all that is available, or it is a “job requirement”. These people are part of the underemployed. How many of these underemployed workers does it take to be able to afford to rent an average house within an hour’s commute to the Sydney CBD?

In the mix, but not spoken much about, is the not insignificant topic of families.

I’m a 27-year-old woman and I’m already older than my mother was when she had me. And she was no teenage mum: she was a high school teacher.

It is not insignificant that I, with an engineering degree and a full-time job which pays above average wages, still face more uncertainty than certainty in planning for a family.

If I need a career change to improve my home stability, I become ineligible for any maternity leave provisions for 12 months.

If I encounter any difficulties with my new job, a gap of more than two months in employment would eliminate any right to a maternity payment.

Don’t forget that 50% of casuals are women. Casual, by definition, means you are not entitled to any paid leave provisions.

Casual rates are highest below the age of 35, and they are highest among women. This means that women and, importantly, mothers are more likely than the average person to have no paid leave provisions in their employment.

Without even considering wage inequality, must we first deal with the problem of leave inequality?

As a Millennial, I assure you we haven’t missed this. These numbers don't add up.

Capitalism is failing the majority of us: insecure in the present, insecure in the future, all the while reading articles about a record profit by the big banks or Facebook “losing 20% share price over publicity”.

We have all lost faith in this system. All that remains is to work out how we can change it.

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