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Call me old-fashioned but...Look out retail management I just got my B.A. in English!

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | February 16th, 2010



Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
As much as I hate guilt trip-ridden conversations with the parental units that begin with, “When I was your age…” I have to say there is something to them, especially when it comes to the subject of “growing up.” But, as pointed out in Foot and Stoffman’s seminal work, Boom, Bust and Echo, which dissects market trends based on demographic theory, the concept of the generation gap is nothing new.

We all grow up within a given cohort, and it is those shared experiences that determine not only many of the social aspects of our lives, but as well the marketplace with which we are faced. As suggested to by the title of this article, a growing phenomenon that us 20-somethings are now burdened with is UNDER-employment.

The narratives our parents and grandparents like to rely upon in order to justify why we are still co-dependent, unmarried, and only earning $9.50 an hour, in our 20s, state that we are lazy, unmotivated, and seriously lacking in the strong work ethic department. Contrary to what these “generational bitchings” suggest, there are MORE people attending post-secondary institutes and obtaining post-grad degrees than EVER before! It is easy to see that all of these mythologies about our cohort being spread by seniors come down to fear: they’re scared we’re going to screw up the very world they worked to create and they don’t want us to take over the reins just yet. The ironic part of course is that the babyboomers, purely because of their sheer numbers, are largely to blame for our predicament:

Problem #1: The Eradication of Mandatory Retirement
Too many babyboomers are holding on for dear life to their jobs. The result: while the cushy positions remain occupied, all that’s left for grabs are the medial labour jobs, admin positions, retail and service-oriented work, and, don’t forget, the paradise known as the fast-food industry. Even then, many of the jobs that we can “get our hands on” are still only part-time, temporary or contractual.

But in all fairness, pensions have been cut dramatically in many fields, forcing seniors to take a hiatus from their golfing expeditions and air-conditioned Floridian lifestyles to re-enter the workforce. In addition, because we are in uncertain economic times, having a single job that is able to substantiate one’s lifestyle in the first place is becoming increasingly impossible.

Problem #2: Inflation
Remember the good old days when you could purchase a tank of gas for less than $15? NO, neither do I. Though our technology has allowed us to produce products faster and at a cheaper rate, the fact that only a handful of corporate conglomerates control some absurd amount of the entire world’s economy allows them to over-charge consumers in an effort to maximize profits which, according to the compelling documentary The Corporation, is their legal designation, above all others. The point: everything these days, from foodstuff to rental properties, is MORE expensive.

But, don’t think that our governments are innocent. In fact, some governments go out of their way to ensure that corporations maintain their headquarters within the territories under their charge to ensure that their economies remain solid. Consequently, white-collar crimes, the disregard for environmental regulations, human rights violations and the like get completely skated over as if they weren’t serious concerns. As AC/DC put it: “Money Talks.”

Problem #3: Technological Advancement & Globalization
Human labour in a lot of previously valued and highly regarded positions is no longer required, thanks to technology. For all the good it has brought, it has also cost a lot of people their salaries.

Because we are increasingly moving in the globalized direction and the disparities in wealth between the poorest and richest nations continue to expand, it is in the best interests of corporations to outsource their labour.

Problem #4: The Social Depreciation of College, the Trades & Other Skills that Greatly Improve Employability
Because our parents and our parents’ parents fought long and hard for equitable access to higher education, as well as for better quality learning overall, there is a belief that if you don’t obtain a university degree you will FAIL at life.

For example, in London, Ontario the available jobs for people of my educational level and age are largely in the financial, service, real estate or customer service sectors. I’ve got a girlfriend who merely finished grade 12, and consistently has been employed in better paying positions for the simple reason that she’s bilingual.

If you come from a well-regarded family within your city, connections will often bypass the entire application and interview process. So, as much as I value my education, I question just how transferable and valued the skills that I have been taught are in the real world.

Get to the point you’re thinking, so here it is: they say too little choice is debilitating, but I’d like to argue that the opposite is true. While some of our parents and grandparents may have been miserable with the predictable existences they led, in my view, it would have been a lot easier to determine your future direction when it was clearly plotted out. You either inherited the family business, or studied under a subject area which you knew would lead to a specific employment outcome, you either married your neighbour, high school sweetheart, or the match arranged for you in advance, you had at least one child and were well into your rearing years by your 30s, at the latest.

These days the dialogues on the milestones one must hit throughout their life course range from stating that “40 is the new 30,” and you’re supposed to be a worth a few million by 20. With all of these mixed messages, not to mention the catch 22-education and employment opportunities we have to contend with, I’m certainly not surprised most of us don’t have it together just yet. Maybe it’s our parents who need to get with the program!

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