“The Swinging Sixties” was a phrase coined to explain how life changed suddenly through that decade: postwar formalities were swept aside either side of the Atlantic as youth began to assert itself. It was seen in music and fashion, in the embracing of ‘rebels’ on stage and in film. There is a strong argument that those who grew up in those days have experienced the best of life even if the advances in modern technology present today’s equivalent generation with a whole new world.
There are some economic realities that have placed restrictions on the modern youngster whilst the child of the ’60s can still reap the benefit of good pension provision and longer life.
There are immediately two serious issues that today’s youngster faces:
- Far fewer employment opportunities
- Financial issues that have resulted from the financial crisis of 2008
National economies are more interdependent than they have ever been. The current problems of unemployment among the youth of countries around the Mediterranean will have social and political implications far beyond the Mediterranean itself.
It is a problem that is highlighted, but not exclusively, among countries that are part of the EU. In Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece youth unemployment is at record levels. There are worried eyes looking from Brussels, the IMF and amongst the northern members of the EU, notably Germany. There is a willingness to help as long as austerity measures are implemented but there has yet to be any positive indication that those measures are either sustainable or effective.
There is a school of thought that some countries have simply been living beyond their means and have not achieved sustainable economies anything like what their people have expected. The impact on youth will be severe and no one knows what the reaction will be even in the short or medium term.
Average unemployment on the Mediterranean is around 12%; amongst those between 16 and 25 it is double that, and double will mean trouble. These are countries that can hardly boast a long democratic history; such political culture is more usual in Northern Europe and North America.
Beyond the EU
The news is no better on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean and political upheaval both there and in the Middle East has led to many commentators expressing concern about the stability of the whole region. Even Turkey which has been a shining light in the early years of this century has come under the spotlight because of its recent response to protests in several major cities. Press censorship is more widespread than the wider world had realised and Turkey’s role as a mediator and stable influence in the Middle East is increasingly being questioned.
Those in work are finding that the conditions being laid down by financial institutions have become far tighter than before the Collateralised Debt Obligation crisis that brought down many famous financial institutions. People aspiring to enter the real estate market can no longer expect to get the liberal loans that were a feature of the years of price inflation in the early part of the century.
Real estate is a hard ladder even to get started climbing. It was not always so. Traditional banks and building societies have always advanced money on property and the youngster who bought in the ’60s may now be sitting on a large asset that has increased in price. The mortgage is long gone and the pension available at the traditional age.
There is enormous pressure to change that and increases have been announced on retirement ages in many countries. Modern youth needs to look harder for a job, save longer for a property deposit and work longer before a pension is available.
There are satellite television, the Internet and modern technology to play with for those that can afford it. There is also an increasing band of disaffected youngsters who do not know where to turn. Time will tell what this disaffection will produce but no country can think it will be unaffected by negative repercussions that may develop.
Retired and happy
For the ’60s youngster, the ‘flower child’, there is retirement with a pension, a longer retirement to enjoy and modern technology to use. It looks like the child of the ’60s picked the right time to grow up.
Even as the ‘flower child’ needs more Hjælpemidler handicappede and care, there is much more help available now than there was for our forefathers. The Internet has made day to day tasks simpler by providing online shopping. Disability laws mean that there is access to all areas. The independence that was sought in the ‘60’s is coming to fruition now.