Generations change, but the game remains the same

I tried to ignore it, but Employment Services Minister Mark Arbib’s resurrection of the (Tony Abbott?) “job snobs” line has turned into yet another tiresome round of the generation game. This time it’s Generation Y who are copping the flak for being “Generation Lazy”, a collection of job-hoppers and dole bludgers.

How many times must these cannonballs fly? Arbib (born 1971) was barely out of nappies when the phrase “dole bludgers” was coined and applied to the unemployed members of Generation Jones (the younger boomers who missed out on the fun of the 60s), a group to which I briefly belonged. That continued right through the late 1970s, and into the recession of the early 1980s. And even before that, the older boomers had been routinely labelled as work-shy hippies.

The recession of the 1990s hit all groups of the population, with older workers suffering even more than youth. Still, the old cliches were dragged out and applied to Gen X-ers (remember the Paxtons?)

Now the economy has soured again, and Gen X bosses and pollies are kicking their Gen Y subordinates. If the slowdown drags on as long as I expect, it will be the turn of Gen Z/Millennial/Potter before long.

As I said back in 2000

Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups Ð the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.

You couldn’t get a better example than the latest round of recycled cliches.

89 thoughts on “Generations change, but the game remains the same

  1. Is there a group this unchristian christian hasnt attacked from single mums, to the poor, to “any on welfare”, to the “homeless” and now its our kids is it Tony Abbott. Its a strange thing when your mother (who is apolitical and leans towards the conservatives but went right off them at the last election … and knows nothing about economics) announces just today “that Tony Abbott wants people to work till they are seventy – its alright for him he just sits back and gets his parliamentary perks for life”
    And he wants Australians to work longer, pay more taxes, and he wants to kick the kids now with an unemployment rate that is not good.

    My suggestion for Tony Abbott and the federal opposition is to get off their collective priviledged posteriors and contribute something positive to economic policy instead to correct the unemployment instead of doing nothing because “markets will fix it” (when instead they have nothing to offer) and endlessly running the blame game.

    Mr People Skills is an apt description of Abbott. Another coalition member living in cloud cuckoo land and looking for a quick scapegoat for the mess they helped get us in.

  2. In fact Abbott is truly pathetic. If they think Malcolm is doing badly in the polls….let them try Abbott. he is an also ran and he should have lost his job as alter boy when Howard fell off the pew.

  3. The irony is that there is empiric evidence that the young can actually end up a lot better off in the long term by a modest amount of job snobbery; getting trapped in a cycle of lousy jobs with no prospects does neither them nor future government tax revenue any good. There is an optimal amount of job snobbery which is not zero.

    Both major parties are dominated by older white males whose social conservatism considerably exceeds that of the median voter. For all their selfrighteousness, their economic ignorance and their fondness for the symbolic over the substantive, I’m voting Green next time.

  4. Ah, the joys of anecdotal stories from a couple of disgruntled employers, vs. a proper statistical study of the employment churn rate for an age cohort. But, it does make good copy for the tabloids.

    In any case, even if the churn rate for young people is higher than other age cohorts, so what?

  5. Indeed. To be fair, Arbib did not play the generation game though his statement was as foolish as we have come to expect from almost all politicians in power. Can you imagine a young person reading that and saying “Y’know he’s right, I will take that manual job after all and not hang about waiting for a job in a law firm”?

  6. I am ABOM – as I said the best I can manage was green shoots (and one of them was alive at the last election….well he voted for Rudd anyway…not the Greens). Considering his background ….and the number of country rels he has – Ive had the stock standard climate change denialist arguments escalate into heated arguments…with me…. in my kitchen (with cousins at least three).

    Too many damn cousins and I think they think I have “corrupted” him – led him astray!! Fortunately he can cook a steak and make jokes so they havent given up on him and hes not a total outcast from the deep blue tribe. As for me? Im viewed secretly askance by the tribe I suspect.

  7. You won’t get any arguments from me, Alice. The environment is st*uffed through over-consumption and mindless industrial pollution. What happened to clean air and forests and farms producing local produce for local communities. What happened to milk in glass?

    I have few cousins and I am soooooooo alone. The (ex?) wife keeps screaming she wants kids…for what possible purpose? To add to the pollution?

    What tragedy made us so far away from each other at this point in our otherwise bleak existence?

  8. @ABOM
    ABOM – as for Tony Abbott. Ive had two strange experiences with him. I went to a debate at North Sydney Council once between politicians about Iraq(at the time of Iraq)…Genia McCarffery was the moderator…John Vale spoke (who was good – liberal but opposed to our involvement). Tony Abbot was one of the speakers and his speech was bizarre – full of religious evil v good arguments – quite extreme and odd – until the speaker who was seated beside him breathlessly told us at interval that all his notes for the speech had been downloaded from US websites (she saw the web addresses) and nothing was pre prepared.

    Then – second incident – I was strolling through Forestville shopping centre one weekday morning and I heard a very loud voice coming from a front row outside table at a coffee shop. I thought who is speaking so loudly and well, it was Tony Abbott who was paying scarcely any attention to his male coffe companion and was clearly addressing his loud commentary to the passing traffic.

    I thought – well thats Tony Abbott – typical – “look at moi, look at moi!!”

  9. All politicians are psychopaths. I saw Costello at Crown Casino smiling that idiotic smile looking around to see who was noticing him (he’s actually pretty tall so he’s not hard to spot). Abbott and Costello. Two Canberra Clowns.

    Get us back to gold as money and we wouldn’t need (nor afford) these overpaid idiots.

  10. Futher to the Tony Abbott persona ABOM – I have also heard on the local grapevine… he has made himself none too popular at his local surf club where his sense of self importance has upset some of the real local workers there.

  11. Don’t waste your electrons on Abbott. He’s never going to be in a position of power again. Unless the Rudd government is very incompetent and very unlucky (a combination only achieved by Whitlam in recent years) ALP will be in government for a least 2 and probably 3 terms. Abbott will be long gone by then. As someone pointed out, Rudd was not in parliament when Keating was defeated so the next Coalition PM will probably be someone we haven’t heard of yet.
    So, on this issue, direct your fire at Arbib. It is worryingly early in the life of this government for a minister to be saying dopey things like that.

  12. And ABOM –

    I tend to agree in the case of Tony Abbott. I think his interest is primarily in the Tony Abbott “image” and that what lies beneath is actually very damn shallow. I think he has very little to offer us and I think worse than that, Im astonished other people may think he has anything to offer.

    He made his name as a a rather rude and obnoxious “attack dog” for JH but those days are over now and I suspect people tired of that close coterie of coalition schoolyard heckling style in parliament (which included Costello).

    Amusing for a while…witty even…but people have tired of it and generally want a bit more civility now – a bit more seriousness and a bit less sarcasm. I might be wrong….Im not discounting that…but the supercilious “attack dog” style has gone out of fashion with the confrontation to the population in general, of more serious economic problems.

    But Id like to see the coalition put Abbott up actually…if only to see them lose!

  13. Given age demographics and the fact that compulsory superannuation was introduced in the early 1990s it should be time soon to start phasing out the aged pension. Lifting the eligibility age is a reasonable way to achieve that. Somebody born after 1970 should not be getting the aged pension before age 70. In fact 1970 is probably a bit late as a transition year.

  14. Good on that Daniel Fitzgerakd and great commentary on it JQ.

    I think gen Y is being screwed into the ground.

    How dare they say Gen Y shouldnt be so selfish as to want an interesting job or learn to be “tougher” (read and take crap jobs as if they can actually get them anyway).
    Stuff the damn politicising – the problem is unemployment.

    We have a big problem. Its an economic problem. Its called unemployment and underemployment (and no we dont obfuscate the two with “official” statistics”). Its the politicians job to fix it (Arbibs as much as anyones currently in power – its called not performing if they dont).

    End the blame game and get on with doing the real job.

  15. I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

  16. My Gen Y takes quite badly to the suggestion that Gen Y is this or that as she seems to think that the labels don’t apply to her. So Mark Arbib’s advice would – if she had been listening – be treated with contempt. I suspect the advice was more along the alcopops line where a solution can be found to solve a problem that affects non voters in the main, to appeal to prejudice in older voters. Mark Arbib seems like Tony Abbott in some ways. Active but clueless but rewarded with a portfolio for loyalty to the cause. It seems foolish to alienate a whole generation of future voters. Perhaps he is banking on the notion that none of them can read.

  17. It’s interesting to note most comments looked at Tony Abbot and not Mark Arbib’s stupidity. You won’t get any argument from me Ikonoclast, men in power seem to want to turn everything into an argument, mind you women to women relationships can be a bit tense at times.

  18. I’m starting to suspect that Alice is a sock puppet used by JQ. Of course he has banned them but it’s his blog, right? And have you noticed that they never argue in the comments section? A coincidence? I think not.

  19. Wow what a great piece of common sense from mark arbib. Youth unemployment is 12% up about 4% from one year ago. Clearly we’ve all become job snobs in that time. Its obviously nothing to do with the governments failure to bring in sufficient programs to reduce youth unemployment.

  20. I’ve deleted a bunch of comments making hostile generalizations about age and gender groups, and some responses.

    Ken N, I take it this was a joke, but to be clear, I don’t do puppetry of any kind.

  21. The great irony is that much of the loudest grumbling about the shortcomings of each emerging generation of young adults invariably comes from the age cohort in which their parents, teachers, sports coaches, religious leaders and other significant/formative others are concentrated.

  22. Im no ones puppet Ken and I dont hide behind a sock. If I made any age generalisations (it would have been about OWM politics I suspect) my apologies JQ – I was a bit cross at Terje’s recommendations to raise the retirement age AGAIN – and OWMs are still overweight in the power structures as ever…..I really would like to see more younger ones and females get up there for a bit of balance but it probably wont happen in my lifetime.

  23. I found very little fault in the Quiggins line presented today.But for the real and obvious fact to me,still presenting itself,that university education,does simply.. not pull people up by their bootstraps and the rest of the population with it.Which isn’t mentioned in the article ,yet is the endless claim of the university educated rather than those who aspire to their standards.Abbott is university educated,and so is Arbib.As a baby boomer born in 1954 ,and long term unemployed pensioned off,people like Arbib and Abbott get my complete sense of contempt by suggesting the work for the Parliamentary pay and conditions,is much more worthy than some teenager discovering for the first time..the Delltones.As advice…. seek your own potential in job or out of it,and if the advice given to you shows an over abundance of heart without fact,or all head no heart,the first is preferable,but, still highly unacceptable very often.

  24. Socrates was not responsible for the quote about the younger generations frequently attributed to him. However, in her interesting book The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, Karen Armstrong reports that Confucius’s predecessors in China (who predated Socrates by some centuries) were much exercised by the declining standards, as they saw it, of the younger generations in that time and place.

  25. Fran, that’s right, The quote misattributed to Socrates is a different one:

    The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

  26. I had a trot of illness lasting maybe 3 years now, from time of diagnosis. This is compounded by chronic pain, which I’ve had – and managed – for nearly 12 years. During the last 3 years I’ve been on LWOP and have paid my own way without any government assistance. Whether I’ll ever be able to do fulltime work again is unknown; I simply can’t last through an 8 hour day. Because of my age and illness, I’m the kind of person who would find it difficult to gain employment in something that I can cope with. I heard Mark Arbib’s comments and thought “Streuth, here we go again!”

    As a Generation Kingswood, I’ve heard the sledges and put-downs of unemployed people too many times now: the late 70s, the ’82 recession (or, Howard Mk I), the 87/88 blip, the 90/91 recession – that we had to have (thanks Keating), the 2000 tech wreck (IT: perfect job one day, no job the next), and now this one (Howard Mk II). I don’t blame Howard completely, just for not paying enough attention to the property market and his FHOG scheme, and the negative gearing treatment, and the rapid population growth inspired by middle class welfare and high immigration. Rudd has continued the mistake of FHOG under even lower interest rates; I would have thought he would have learnt from Howard’s property boom/bust, but apparently not.

    While I’m financially okay, many people in similar situations to mine go from wealthy and healthy to poor, sick, and abused (for being lazy, not fully employed, faking it to get sickness benefits, etc etc). Some become homeless due to the sudden drop in income. Many end up on the dole because they don’t “qualify” for other benefits for technical reasons rather than material reasons. I’d love to understand just how the magical free market optimally deals with people plagued by chronic illness and/or disability.

  27. At last a comment by philip travers @30 that I can understand and agree with! Hooray! The categorisation of generations is not completely unfounded, sterotypes often are based on a grain of truth like successful propaganda.

  28. Alice – welfare benefits should not be paid on the basis of age. I have nothing against disability payments to people that are old, however only if they suffer disability and not simply because they are old. I also have nothing against the aged pension for those born well before my time because lousy governments did somewhat promise to care for them and signalled as such through falsly earmarked taxes. However we should be phasing out such expectations. Old people (even white male ones) should not receive special entitlements. As a 21st century society we ought to aim for rules that treat everybody equal irrespective of age, race, gender or sexuality.

  29. Terje – then it must have escaped your attention that many people even now have insufficient superannuation to live on after retirement BUT more especially women, who’s careers in many cases are interrupted by reproduction preciesly because this is not taken into account by the market ( reproduction – a negative externality that is blatantly discriminatory!) So many studies show many women have insufficient superannuation Terje. Your beliefs embed no sociakl safety net and I find that one step towards an unhealthy society. One only has to look to the aged that were begging on the streets in Russia with opening of the old soviet system to the markets (and the collapse of the pension system) Terje – and no this is not an argument advocating the prior communist system but neither is my argument one recommending that people should be “left entirely to the market” and their old age is without government support if required. Thats a very cold view.

  30. Alice – I’ve no problem with a general modest social wage paid to everybody irrespective of age, race or gender as a safety net. It is part of what I campaigned for during the last election (LDP tax policy 30/30). Specifically the LDP policy advocated that the government pay everybody 30 cents for every dollar they earn below $30000 and also that we abolish unemployment.

    However we don’t currently pay a social wage to able bodied people under 65 so we shouldn’t pay it to able bodied people over 65. Age should not be a basis for entitlement.

  31. Age is not a disability. There are disabilities that are more prevalent amoungst old people but that is not the same thing.

  32. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders

    Whereas nowadays youth are all joined together in some sort of amorphous job-snobbish blob.

  33. Yonks ago, in another life, it was one of my sad duties to give speeches to all sorts of social groups on the subject of youth and the world of work.
    I quickly became tired of the all too prevalent attitude among older people, often my age range actually, and particularly those who identified themselves as employers, that the youth of the day were lazy, irresponsible etc and so on and that the current education system was to blame cos it was not what it used to be when we were all kids.
    You know the sort of thing.
    So I collected a bunch of quotes from history that boringly repeated the tired old claims. The Hesiod [Greece c 700BCE] quote mentioned back at #22, was #1 on the list. [I found it last night by googling Hesiod whose name I remeber being attached to the quote, I’ve lost the rest of the quotes, it would be a cute exercise finding them again.]
    And I would trot several of them out in a speech with a particular cluster of Australian quotes that was spoken or written at the time I estimated most of my audience would have been youthful.
    It was a moderately successful tactic.
    Some people later told me that they initially agreed with the criticisms of the youth until they realized that they were the youth being targeted, many of my audience went through a stage of anger then amusement and then, sometimes, a reevaluation of their own attitudes.
    Perhaps the cause of this phenomena of blaming the youth of the day is best reflected by a slogan on one of my coffee mugs.
    “The older I get, the better I used to be”.
    My wife bought the mug for me.
    Not sure why exactly.

  34. There are nuances to the generational whinging, of course. I imagine that if we surveyed a random selection of parents of married children about their daughters in law, and then surveyed the parents of the same group of women about their daughters, we would find some interesting differences.

  35. Removed ref to deleted comment – JQ

    I alway cringe inwardly when I hear some politician say: “Know that all of Australia is behind you …” I heard Quentin Bryce claim that all Australians thought the troops were doing a fabulous job in Afghanistan. During the last Olympics, apparently, according to rudd, “all Australians” were following the runners around the track. It must have been distracting.

    The impulse to generalise from little more than anecdote or personal experience is often hard to resist but IMO, one should make the effort.

  36. MU, the comments I deleted targeted the same group. Looks like one slipped through further upthread. I should say that I don’t object to the factual observation made by DD at #3, just to generalized attacks that produce this kind of response. Anyway I’m going to delete the comment to which you objected and your objection to try and bring this thread back on track.

  37. Alice says “Terje – then it must have escaped your attention that many people even now have insufficient superannuation to live on after retirement BUT more especially women, who’s careers in many cases are interrupted by reproduction preciesly because this is not taken into account by the market ( reproduction – a negative externality that is blatantly discriminatory!) So many studies show many women have insufficient superannuation Terje.”

    This is a legitimate concern, but is often over-estimated in these debates.

    The reason why some of the costs of supporting people in their old age should be borne by subsequent generations, rather than funded by retirees during their lives, is that every generation has to sacrifice a certain amount of time and economic activity in order to have children and raise the next generation. This in turn impacts on their ability to fund their own retirement.

    The problem is that if you have a situation where the population is getting older and birth rates have been in decline for a long time (since about the mid-1960s) then obviously older generations spent less time raising subsequent generations and so should fund more of their retirement. Moreover, it is not fair or sustainable to have a declining ratio of working age people supporting more older people.

    The chief flaw in existing social security systems is that everyone is able to rely on the same support from subsequent generations regardless of how much or how little one contributes towards raising those generations. A person who doesn’t have children, or who neglects or abandons their children, can still rely on other people’s children to support them when they are old, just the same as someone who devoted their life to raising a large family of productive citizens. In other words, because the benefits of raising human capital are socialised there is an incentive to underinvest in the human capital needed to keep the system going.

    The problems you identify are not primarily the result of market failure. They are a result of the flaws in existing social security systems.

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