Revenge of the ‘baby doomers’

By Christian Nielsen

Could the disgruntled ‘baby doom' generation turn on Europe's baby boomers?

16 July 2009

“As the recession tightens across Europe, the young are hurting disproportionately,” Time magazine reported last week in its piece The broken hopes of a generation. in Spain is around 17% – already high – but one in three of these are under 25.

Bankers have been blamed for the global recession, but in Spain blame is starting to fall on successive governments seduced by the boom times, and a seeping suspicion that joining the euro has lined the pockets of businesses and left – even very well educated ones – scraping for entry-level opportunities.

“The lack of decently paying jobs for young Europeans is one the continent's great failings,” writes Time. In France, they have a term for this which translates literally as ‘young graduates' (jeunes diplômés) but means so much more. It speaks of a generation of young people who, perhaps for the first time since World War II, may be worse off than their parents. It speaks of a generation that will have to live longer with their parents. Without jobs and with dwindling prospects of getting one, as employers increasingly look for proven track records, this generation is even unattractive to a contrite financial sector.

Spain has dubbed this disappointed generation the mileuristas apparently because they scrape by on a thousand euros a month. They have been chewed up and spat out by companies looking to avoid the country's onerous employment laws, with few benefits and little protection now that the axe is falling.

In Greece, a similar phenomenon is called the “Generation 600” which, according to the The Wall Street Journal (In Greece, protests echo European students' ire) refers to the country's national minimum wage of €600 a month. Germany calls them “Generation intern” because of the long spells of no- or low-paid jobs they are forced to take.

Turning on the baby boomers

Greece's violent riots in December last year and Italian student protests – at their government's unfavourable schools overhaul – are a palpable sign of things to come elsewhere where younger generations are starting to question a system set up by their ‘baby boomer' parents who (they may well conclude) have sucked the planet dry for 50 years. Economic growth, asset creation, feathering nests… however you want to put it.

And don't even get the started on the environment and how their erstwhile parents and grandparents have sat on their growing wealth (and hands) while the planet got sicker and sicker but the oldies' bank accounts got healthier and healthier. At least the stock market (and pension fund) crash of 2008 set some of that straight, the young people may well conclude.

Don't forget, it's the same baby boomers who invented the pill and decided to breed by choice – fewer children means fewer future workers, which means less tax revenue, less money to pay for future pension schemes… The same baby boomers who are also hell-bent on living longer than ever – through medicine, genetic manipulation, what ever it takes – and the health and welfare systems of socialist countries in Europe will pay for it! (Read Promises of immortality.)

“ No problem, say the baby boomers, our health systems are strong enough for this right now and our nest eggs survived  the crash.”

But the deck is stacked… in their favour.

No problem for them. It's the 40 year-olds and down – generation ‘baby doomers' – who will have to pay tax for their parents' comfortable (cruising the Caribbean) retirement, and stump up at the same time for their own superannuation in the expectation that most government pension schemes will probably be scrapped within 30 years anyway. And with financial markets faltering and crashing, private schemes are not a safe bet either.

The Economist had a great idea a few years ago to deal with this dearth of money and burdened pension schemes: it suggested granting baby boomers income tax-free status on everything they earned beyond the legal retirement age. Good idea, yes. But again the sliver set score big at the fruit machine.

Who knows, may be this problem will solve itself, as it looks like governments will expect baby doomers to work till 70, 80 or till they drop! Or perhaps growing will make most work redundant in the coming decades.

So, how is generation doom supposed to do all this, and be all things to everyone (model employees, positive parents) if their parents hold onto the jobs?

How is this generation to strive for better things, to put its all into an economic and social model created by their elders when the model now seems to be a one-size-fits-me (the parents)?

How can they trust that any decisions made on their behalf today will be any better suited to their needs in 30 or 40 years' time?

They can't. And when the penny drops, just watch it roll.

This article is published with the author's permission. © Copyright – Christian Nielsen. All rights reserved.


  • Christian Nielsen

    Christian Nielsen is a journalist, copy writer and editor based in Brussels. He writes pretty much anything that takes his fancy, from the woes of travelling with kids to the dangers of antidepressants, but technology, EU affairs and science writing pay the bills.

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9 thoughts on “Revenge of the ‘baby doomers’

  • Emery Lym

    Definitely, what a great blog and enlightening posts, I definitely will bookmark your website.All the Best!

  • Brian H, I have agree with you on the technology hopping – we just don’t know what leaps may take place to help the many problems raised in the article. But for the rest, I’d say we’re a few decades apart.

  • Brian H

    Demographics always seems to catch people unaware. No one can actually anticipate what conditions will be like for the next generation(s).

    As for “less well than their parents”, all young start out with less, unless there is a huge silver-spoon surplus to batten off. In any case, the economic and technological developments and environment of the next 20-30 years are going to be in rapid change and will keep everyone hopping.

    The boomers’ worst legacy is actually the mush-minded Aquarian dreams and delusions they thought and still imagine will suffice to keep peace and prosperity advancing. Green delusions head the list. Consider the Spanish experiment with green-jobbing; each new g-job cost the rest of the economy 2.2 jobs. Sound like a viable trade-off to you? If so, I have a nice bridge in New York I’d like to sell you …

  • great article..

    Throw in the cost of property (renting or buying) into the mix and the “baby doomer” doom is future defined .. with the hope of any inheritance relieving the strain undermined by the the baby boomers living well into their 80s.

    The education levels of the doomers adds to the ennui as opposed to helping them escape as it:

    1. Creates expectations of career satisfaction and reward with a balanced life of travel and family that are unsustainable.

    2. Enables the “doomer” to see the big (dark) picture and understand in economic and social impact of their position in relation to society and of course their darned parents who created the unholy mess in the first place.

    Oh joy!

  • Jackie Jukes

    Loved this article… being a baby doomer,I would wouldn’t I…

  • The Chronikler

    sorry, … I meant ‘if it can’t take care of you…’

  • The Chronikler

    I see your point… having the choice at that time was an important step, freeing up more women to enter the workforce, raising household incomes, living standards, etc. But the whole point is, this model of ‘progress’, as it were, (the Washington Consensus or market fundamentalist)is a babyboomer inc. product. If it can’t take of you, I’m not sure what can. Surely, you don’t want a porta cabin in your 1.2 kids’ back yard?

  • Baby Boomer

    Yes, we baby boomers had fewer children. But we didn’t see it as being selfish. It was a rebellion against the whole procreation gig. Actually, the old idea of having lots of children to take care of you in your old age is what’s truly selfish.

    By only having a couple of kids, we could raise them so much more comfortably. Is it too much to ask them to repay the compliment in our old age and take care of us?

  • Generation XY

    It’s just incredible how the baby boomers have dominated things for the past 50 years. When they were young, they started a youth revolution. As they age, they’ve got another silver revolution up their sleeves.

    But there is a weird paradox. We should actually not have any baby doomers. An ageing population, resulting in a smaller labour pool, should mean higher employment, yet it is the ranks of the unemployed that are swelling.


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