Why young people think they will live worse (economically) than their parents

A stable job, a mortgage and a handful of expectations separate Arnav Adan’s life from that of his father and mother. He is 25 years old and lives at home with his parents while he finishes his final year at university. At his age, his parents had finished school, owned an apartment and had a stable job. “We are the first generation that will live worse than the previous generation, at least by their standards,” he purports resignedly. The youth context is so precarious that the average pension for recent retirees is higher than that of the youngest.

Like Arnau, half of the young people in Spain believe it They will live worse than their parents’ generation. And despite the fact that they will do so in the context of unprecedented freedoms and social rights in Spain, the economic and material difficulties they face mean that the social elevator works only in decline.

The effort of today’s youth to make their way into a hostile world of work puts the average age of emancipation at the bottom of the European Union. While in Europe young people approach the age of 26, in Spain young people do not leave the family home until after the age of 30. “Increasingly late age is considered a paradigm when considering whether young people today are having more difficulty,” explains José Ignacio Conde Ruiz, Professor of Fundamentals of Economic Analysis at the Complutense University of Madrid.

The job insecurity and price of housing that young people face contrast with the favorable context in which their parents live. The older generation, born between the mid-forties and late sixties, broke into the world of work in the early eighties: they built their lives in an economic and social environment that raised them.


Young people live worse than their parents and these are some of the reasons

“We have demographics and economics in our favor, but we also have politics in our favor. Being the largest group, we are becoming more and more weighted within the electorate,” economist Conde-Ruiz acknowledges. When I was young, per capita income doubled every ten years; Now it’s practically stopped,” he adds.

population pyramid by


Population pyramid by generation

Population pyramid by generation

This generation – to which Conde Ruiz also belongs – has come to be described as a “buffer generation” because so far it has concentrated a good part of the decision-making positions in a system that has allowed them to live better than what their parents and grandparents did and what their children and grandchildren can do. The term was developed by Josep Sala i Cullell (Girona, 1978), a secondary school teacher in Norway for 15 years and author of Generació Tap (Ara llibres, 2020).

In the political sphere, this translates into more than 30 years of political decisions made from the perspective of this generation: from 1986 to 2018, all Spain’s governments had a majority of ministers born between 43 and 63. The evolution of the average age of the various executive teams rose 14 years from 1986 to the present. Conde-Ruiz laments that “political demography is increasingly at odds with intergenerational justice: young people will become increasingly irrelevant”.

average age of government

Go from 40 to 54 in

the past 40 years

Omar Asghar Minister

The age of the Grand Vizier

Average government life passed from

40 to 54 in the past 40 years

Omar Asghar Minister

The age of the Grand Vizier

The middle age of government has passed

From 40 to 54 in the last 40 years

Omar Asghar Minister

The age of the Grand Vizier

Generational conflict often criticizes young people of the “Glass Generation” or “Nennis”: with 12.7%, Spain is among European countries with the smallest They do not study or work. But at the same time, its level of education, with 55% of university students, is one of the highest in Europe.

The sermon addressed to young people is repeated: “At your age I had a steady job, I bought an apartment, a car, I have a daughter and another on the way.” Whether or not they choose the children’s home or car model, it’s impossible to achieve independence in choosing their own path without the first premise: having a stable job. A real achievement considering that 40.4% of those under the age of 25 are unemployed and 25% of young people between the ages of 25-30 are also unemployed, according to the latest EPA data for 2022.

The youth context is so complex that the average pension New retirees It’s already 38% higher than the salary of young people, and it’s one of those staggering data that often sparks debates about the generation gap on social networks. The amount for retirees in January is 19,668 euros per month, while people up to the age of 25 earn an average of 14,218 euros. It is also an above average salary the whole community, which ranges between 16,400 euros and 18,500 euros, according to the latest data published by the National Institute of Statistics. It is expected that the number of retirees in the next decade will exceed 14 million.

A few months ago, the Minister of Finance, María Jesus Montero, highlighted this discrepancy with a phrase about pensions that earned her a lot of criticism: “It is the best distributed salary that families can have” – ​​and continued – “With the help of a son who cannot pay for electricity, to go to the supermarket to buy the five things her daughter cannot buy, it is the help that our little grandparents and great-grandmothers can give”. About 63% of those over the age of 55 help their family or environment financially, up 20% from 2021, according to Mapfre barometer from dec. It’s no coincidence: 20% of workers under the age of 30 are on the verge of poverty, according to data from the La Caixa Social Observatory.

Intergenerational tensions have also become apparent in public debate in recent months through election promises by age groups. Like the cinema 2 euros for those over 65 or gratuity interrail For the youth announced by Pedro Sanchez in the municipal campaign. Or too global inheritance 20 thousand euros for youth training and entrepreneurship that Somar proposes, funded by a tax on millionaires.


The generational gap


40.4% of those under the age of 25 are unemployed and 25% of young people between the ages of 25 and 30 are also unemployed, according to the latest EPA data for 2022.


Today’s youth are better educated than their predecessors, yet they do not have access to the job market as easily as previous generations did.


More than 55% of the 2.5 million young workers under the age of 30 have temporary contracts. The two economic crises – the 2008 crisis and the coronavirus crisis – have particularly affected the youth group as they also suffer from the most precarious jobs.

The conflict between generations has a serious twist. “Deep down, the welfare state is a pact between generations,” says Pablo Simón, political science professor and tenured professor at Universidade Carlos III in Madrid, which means “not only opportunities for young people, but opportunities for the country as a whole.”

In a context that does not facilitate young people’s progress, helping the family move forward can become a different factor. And also if inequality expands, not only between generations but also at an intra-generational level. Acquisition of housing is the clearest example of this: “It is not the same thing to inherit an apartment in a small town as an apartment on Gran Via”. or what you do not inherit. In nearly 75% of households, their main savings asset is their home, says Simon.

Arnau does not aspire to be able to buy a house but he does want a sufficient salary to get access to rent in Barcelona, ​​one of the Spanish cities where it is almost impossible to rent a house with average wage. “Getting rid of these expectations is probably the best way to be able to get on with our lives, even if it’s another way.”

with information from Eva NinerolaAnd Arnald Pratt y Maria Sierra

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