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A crash course in reality

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Young people born from the early 1960s to late 1970s believed that the future was theirs. As baby boomers aged, employment and prosperity would be passed along. Instead, "Generation Xers" complained that they were propelled into a changing, recession-driven workplace that offered little but "McJobs." They became the first post-war generation to be worse off than their parents, left with reduced expectations and downsized hope for the future.

The mantras are enough to make them sick.

"Children are our most precious resource."
"You can be anything you want to be."
"Jobs, jobs, jobs."

By 1985 - the United Nation's International Youth Year - it's pretty clear to high school students across Canada that the slogans were written with someone else in mind.

At this forum in St. John's, Nfld., young people say they are fed up with the platitudes their parents have always told them. Their generation does not yet have an identity. But they've seen older siblings venture out into the working world, only to be thrown back. Some have already been rejected themselves. As we see in this excerpt, the students still hope for a rewarding job that will make them feel useful to society. The adults on the panel tell them to get real.
. The generation that followed the baby boom (people born after the Second World War, roughly 1946 to 1964) is usually called "Generation X." In broad terms, "Xers" are those born in the late 1960s to 1970s, though the exact age range of Generation X is still hotly debated.

. The term "Generation X" was popularized in 1991 following the publication of Canadian author Douglas Coupland's book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.
. In 1992 The Futurist magazine defined Xers as those born after 1964. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe include those born between 1961 and 1981. Cultural historian Jonathan Pontell begins Generation X at 1966, separating those born between the boomers and Xers into "Generation Jones."

. Other common terms for Generation X include the "Lost Generation" (a term sometimes used for those who grew up during the First World War), the "Baby Bust," the "Nexus Generation," "Slackers," "Thirteeners," or the "Last Generation" (after the group's apparent unwillingness to reproduce).
. The terms "Thirteeners" or "13th Generation" come from the 1991 book Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe, where Thirteeners are listed as the 13th generation in the United States since 1620.

. Douglas Coupland was born on Dec. 20, 1961.
. "Generation X" was also the name of a 1970s British punk group featuring singer Billy Idol.
. Douglas Coupland discussed the genesis of the term with CBC Radio in 2001. He says he got the idea from Paul Fussell's 1983 book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. In the book Fussell discusses an "X-Class" of people who step off the treadmill of status accumulation.

. There was an almost immediate backlash against the term "Generation X" - X being the symbol for a mathematical unknown, signature for the illiterate (or, as Coupland once said, the wrong answer on Family Feud). But the name has outlived its competition.

. The United Nations proclaimed 1985 International Youth Year. That year, it defined "youth" as "those persons falling between the ages of 15 and 24 years inclusive." By this definition there are approximately one billion youths in the world today (17 per cent of the population).


. There are approximately 60 million North Americans who were born between the late 50s and early 70s.
. Though the absolute number is increasing, youth are decreasing as a percentage of the total population. The 1990s saw a decline in annual growth rates of youth in all parts of the world except Africa.

From Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture:
. Lessness: A philosophy whereby one reconciles oneself with diminishing expectations of material wealth: "I've given up wanting to make a killing or be a bigshot. I just want to find happiness and maybe open up a little roadside cafe in Idaho."
. Safety Net-ism: The belief that there will always be a financial and emotional safety net to buffer life's hurts. Usually parents.
Medium: Television
Program: Current Affairs
Broadcast Date: Nov. 20, 1985
Guest(s): Gary Browne, Jim Hickey
Host: Greg Stamp
Duration: 5:01

Last updated: October 1, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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