I started this blog in July 2019 but never finished it. Now the coronavirus lockdown has stopped most travel and many more people are relying on video conferencing for their private and working lives. Even school classes are conducted on line. The “Zoom” way of life has opened up different divides in society and highlighted different priorities. We don’t know what the lasting effects will be; working from home may stay; the “key” workers may be treated with more respect and command better pay (we can only hope); a new set of priorities and new economic and social models may dawn. More than ever it is time to make room for the younger generation.
They both work freelance with a portfolio of online jobs
As I sit here I can hear my daughter talking to her boyfriend. She is in my house in the UK, he is in Los Angeles, California. They met a couple of years ago while she was studying at the University in San Luis Obispo as a “year abroad” inset into her course at Birmingham University.
She spends a lot of her time in the US, and on rainy summer days like today I can understand the appeal of the Californian sunshine, but their time together is limited by visa restrictions.
So while she is at home in the UK they are in touch by video call for the best part of an hour everyday.
Modern technology plays a big part in their lives. They both work freelance with a portfolio of on-line jobs, remote working, which they can do from anywhere at any time of day, even as they travel around the Americas living in their van.
They are service providers operating in the global market. Their only complications are tax (my daughter is now struggling with her first self-assessment return) and ensuring a good internet connection. Their expensive “luxury items” such as phone and laptop (how often we hear, “how can they afford them?”) are the tools of their trade. How can they afford not to have them?
It is a rather hand to mouth existence
In between times while back home on different continents, with their respective mums, they also provide services such as dog sitting and dog walking. They aren’t rich. It is a rather hand to mouth existence, and they are lucky in that they can still “live at home” when not in their van.
To my older 9 to 5 generation these don’t seem like proper jobs and their life style appears alarmingly precarious. Why don’t they want to settle down and save for a house? But which of us, if we are honest, wouldn’t – when we were young – have liked the freedom to work from beautiful locations at times convenient to ourselves.
Later this year my daughter also begins studying for an MSc. It is part time, on-line distance learning. Travel, work and study.
I relate this to illustrate how technology and transport has already changed the world of work for many young people and how physical location and borders do not mean the same for them as for older generations.
An older generation yearning for the ‘good old days’ and traditional jobs will hinder the next generation
Over the last two years I have listened to people in my home town explain that they voted for Brexit to safeguard the future of their children and grand children, that they they did it to stop foreigners “coming here” in order to protect “our kids jobs”.
In my Brexit supporting city it’s probably a safe bet that more jobs have been exported abroad to so called low cost countries than jobs lost to resident foreigners; and more will have been lost to automation or become unreliable gig economy jobs.
Even while blaming immigrants for their plight many have explained exactly these causes. Closing borders to protect jobs just won’t work and the younger generation apparently understand this better than their parents and grandparents – or at least they are more prepared to admit it.
An older generation yearning for the “good old days” and traditional jobs will hinder the next generation not help them. A glance down a list of modern job titles looks as alien to me as my job title appeared to my parents.
Stop voting for people who offer deluded back to the future, simplistic solutions
New technologies and new style work patterns demand a new social and economic model to ensure everyone has a decent life.
People of my generation may not have the imagination to do it, but it isn’t our future. The younger generation have their own priorities for safeguarding their future – whether it be climate change, environment, equality, employment, leisure. Trying to force the old model of regular 9 to 5 manual work back into the old industrial towns will not work. The youngsters get it. Forty years ago my generation wanted to forge its own future. Our parents thought they knew better but most of us managed, even though the typing pools had dried up.
We need to stop voting for people who offer deluded back to the future, simplistic solutions. We owe it to our kids and grand kids.