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No Budget for young people?

Gen Z was notably absent from Jeremy Hunt’s announcements of economic support last week.

By Katharine Swindells

Last week’s Budget may have contained key policies intended to improve people’s personal finances – particularly related to childcare and pensions – but one group was noticeably absent: Gen Z.

Back to work initiatives focused on support for the over-50s, despite the fact that the unemployment level among 18- to 24-year-olds has increased by 3.4 per cent in the past three months, and by 27 per cent in the past six months (compared with a national increase of 2.6 per cent in six months). The extension of the energy price guarantee and major increases in childcare support are welcome announcements for many, but there was no mention of the nightmarish rental market or struggling jobs market plaguing younger people.

Polling conducted last year found that the cost-of-living crisis was top of the list of anxieties for Gen Z, a group that, according to survey data, everyone agrees have been dealt a bad financial hand. Across the generations, all say that young people today have it worse than their parents. This belief is most strongly held not among the under-25s themselves, but their parents. Among 45- to 54-year-olds, over half believe today’s young people have it tougher than they did.

[See also: Care is a Gen Z issue]

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Gen Z is a generation struggling to align its hopes for the future with economic and political reality. When asked about their biggest life ambitions, 27 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds said financial security or making money, and 15 per cent said having a family with children, followed by having a job they loved, travelling and owning their own home.

They’re all too aware that these goals won’t be easy. More than half say they are worried about the cost of living and rising inflation, 40 per cent are worried about financial security, and a third are worried they’ll never be able to afford to buy a home.

Just 39 per cent said they had enough money to live on, and 38 per cent said they felt they received a fair wage for their work. Meanwhile a third were worried about the level of personal debt they had, rising to 40 per cent among those aged 22-24.

Their fears and concerns go beyond just their personal circumstances, too. More than half of 16- to 24-year-olds feel negative about the UK economy and UK politics, and more than a quarter feel negative about the future in general.

[See also: Could America’s Gen Z voters save the world?]

In a study of young people and climate anxiety conducted in 2021 38 per cent of 16- to 25-year-olds in the UK said climate change was making them hesitant to have children, and two-thirds said the government was failing young people on climate policy.

And with less than a fifth of young people saying that British democracy addresses their interests, compared with almost half of pensioners, it’s clear that young people want actions, not just words. Gen Z believe that they are more accepting than older generations, and 60 per cent believe their generation could teach the older generation. They have something to say. The question is, who’s listening?

[See also: Single-use vapes show we can't rely on Gen Z to fix the climate crisis]

A version of this article originally appeared in a Spotlight special policy supplement on the cost-of-living crisis. To read the full report click here.

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