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BBC’s “The state of the never had it generation” reviewed

by on January 9, 2014

This BBC programme brought together four young graduates,  all with very impressive CV’s, to debate the issues facing their generation, and as the BBC says “discuss whether they really are the “Never Had It” generation and, if they’ve not had what their parents had, how much is that really holding them back?”

In addition to offering their own views these four were given the opportunity to interview four guests David Willetts MP, Dr Ros Altmann (pensionsandsavings.com), Ashley Seager and the Intergenerational Foundation (www.if.org.uk) and Paul Johnson and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (www.ifs.org.uk).

Initial comments seemed to suggest that the four were divided as to whether they #neverhadit (which unfortunately for the BBC also links to a foodie hashtag on twitter) or, as one of the four suggested, were in fact the “we can take it” generation.  As it emerged, all agreed that these four young people were perhaps very different from many of their age in terms of their achievements and perhaps therefore some of the issues debated were different from those concerning “ordinary people”.

The interviews with Dr Ros Altmann and Paul Johnson seemed to me to be the most informative and thought provoking, prompting debates about the validity of comparisons between generations, the danger of over-generalising and of predicting how the future will play out for young people as the economy recovers.  Reminding us that the school leaving age of 16 was not introduced until the 1970s was my fact of the programme. Unsurprisingly, the cost of university education and the availability of graduate jobs were much discussed, with indeed some interesting debates between the four young people.  David Willets made some interesting claims about his book (though did offer a definition of who the baby boomers were), but didn’t really contribute to the meat of the discussion.  Though his questioning about MP’s pay rises was great fun!  Ashley Seager of the Intergenerational Foundation seemed to me to impress the four young people the least, partly because of his tendency to stereotype older people as taking cruises and buying fine wines which did not seem to resonate with the personal experience of the four young people participating in the debate.

At the end of the debate, the key conclusion seemed to be that there is as much inequality within cohorts as between them, and other issues raised such as the geographic concentration of wealth, also needed more unpacking but that investment in opportunities for young people needed to remain high on the agenda.

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