Forbes recently ran a couple of pieces online that made my eyes bulge out of my head. “Is Gen Y Underemployed—Or Just Lazy?” was followed by “Dude, Where’s My Student Loan Bailout?” Both pieces paint fairly unflattering portraits of the younger generation.
The first article summarizes some recently released studies, using some quotes that generally seem to make sense. They state that younger workers dislike large corporations and prefer to work in smaller firms with more flexibility, and where their entrepreneurial desires may be given room to flourish. Sounds about right to me! The writer attempts a few jabs at the young throughout, but attempts a surprising knockout in the conclusion:
Though this report says that this is a strong indicator of the underemployment issue in the US today, it seems more like a strong indicator of a generation with an issue of entitlement and extreme laziness – despite the opportunities that await them.
Of course Forbes is probably playing to their demographic (Uncle Moneybags), but there seem to be a lot of other explanations. If the writer had explored the number of US firms outsourcing their labor, taken a look at the scant job listings in local newspapers, or explored market saturation of people with college degrees, maybe an article with more serious exploration of the issue would have materialized. These seem to be pretty obvious factors to the people I regularly talk to.
Nah. It’s that lazy young generation with their long hair and their rock ‘n’ roll music, skipping out on Vietnam. I mean…with their internets. Isn’t that right, Mr. Rockefeller?
(Before his estate sues me, please know that Mr. Rockefeller’s appearance in today’s post is thanks to our friends at the Library of Congress, who provide public domain images to lazy young people such as myself!)
In the second piece, the writer uses current statistics about student loan repayments to paint an equally dark portrait of recent grads. Because the current default rate is 8.8% (and it would be higher if they included those in forbearance), and many grads expressed support for more forgiveness opportunities (if you work in the Peace Corps or teach at a Headstart program for two years, you can get small amounts forgiven on your Stafford loans), this means that recent grads are all a bunch of entitled good-for-nothings. To quote my friend Cat (a recent graduate herself), “I don’t know anyone who is trying to ‘get out of’ their student loans…they pay their loan payments even when they can’t or won’t pay other stuff.”
Personally speaking, I’ve always been eager to pay down the principal of my student loans, so I’ll pay less in interest over the years. This approach allowed me to pay off $25,000 in debt in about six years (instead of the usual ten) after my undergraduate work. At the moment though, I am about a month and a half away from my first graduate loan payment—and I’m living (with extreme frugality) off my savings while taking any temporary work I can. It’s slightly terrifying.
Two other things seem surprising when considering these articles. First, both the writers appear to be early career, meaning they are in fact insulting themselves. Second, why is Forbes running these pieces on the internet, where they invite a deluge of criticism from the very people they are insulting? A quick scan of the comments confirms that the vast majority are from young people defending themselves. Everybody knows that those lazy good-for-nothing youngsters won’t pay newsstand price, and Uncle Moneybags is afraid of people stealing his identity if he is connected on those internets.
What say you, Bookish reader? Are we lazy nogoodniks or does Forbes just hate young people? And do you think they would like me more if I dressed like Alex P. Keaton?