Don't blame the Kippers

Observations on graduates

I am a Kipper, a Kid in Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings. Ask anybody - we're bad news: those lazy, spoilt, superannuated brats who, years after any self-respecting adult would have moved out, are still in the parental home, denuding the fridge, filling the laundry basket, inflating the phone bill and chipping away at parents' bank accounts.

After the dotcom collapse, the Equitable Life fiasco and the endowment mortgage scandal, we are the latest big reason why people in their fifties and sixties will be cheated of the comfortable retirements they expected.

If you ask me, the complaints miss their mark. It's not that Kippers don't exist (we do), it's just that we don't have much choice about it. The world is not the place it was when our parents finished their educations, marched out into the workplace and within a week or a month picked up their first pay packet. A lot of people can't do that any more.

Whatever else I may be, I don't think I can reasonably be called lazy. In the evenings I earn money coaching AS-level students and chess prodigies, and in the daytime I work full-time as an intern (currently at the New Statesman, previously at the BBC, and open to offers . . .) attempting to gain the experience that is the essential foundation of a career in journalism. They don't pay me.

Working for nothing is now common among graduates. Figures are in short supply, though a recent survey found that 51 per cent of graduate recruiters offer work placements like this, some lasting a year. In May, a 2,700-name petition was presented to the government by interns and runners working in television, offering a glimpse of an unseen world of young people keeping TV companies afloat.

Many see it as a rite of passage, leading to bigger and brighter prospects, but to me it feels like a modern version of the old-boy network. Internships and work placements are informal and networked, and if you want the experience and opportunities they can offer, you have to be able to feed and house yourself at your own (or your parents') expense.

Recently, at an interview for the position of MP's intern, a friend argued that it was unfair that she needed to be rich to take the post. Her protest helped land her the internship, but her case is anything but typical. Increasingly, organisations whose ethos it is to challenge social injustice are implicitly favouring young people from well-off families.

I feel guilty for being a Kipper, but my shame is not directed towards my parents, long-suffering as they are. Instead, I feel bad for my non-Kipper peers. Friends whose parents' pockets aren't quite deep enough are being denied a vital first step on the career ladder.