Rezori | Get on the dysfunctional carousel, kids

Azzo Rezori takes a look at the hardships facing young people, and whether or not it's actually anything new.

Young people are worried about their prospects. What else is new?

A lot has been said and written recently about young people fresh out of college, with a degree/diploma or two to show for it, looking to get a foothold on the ever shifting ground of today's economy.

If you go by what's been reported, the kids are having a hard time.

Unemployment among them is unacceptably high, underemployment even higher. There's a growing sense that they've been let down.

It's not just here. You certainly got that message from Italian labour minister Enrico Giovannini's recent lament over high youth unemployment in Europe. "We have the best ever educated generation in the continent, and we're putting them on hold."

It's so easy to suggest that the solution to the problem is just a good fix away, that all we need is to make a few adjustments here and there to our economic models and nobody who doesn't want to will ever have to miss another step again.

This has happened before, and it will happen again. According to one authority, there have been 36 financial crises worth recording in the last two centuries alone. Thirteen in the 19th century. Seventeen in the 20th. Six already in the first 10 years of this century.

At that rate of acceleration we can soon expect a financial crisis every month, then every week, then every day, until the crisis becomes permanent and we can confidently rename it status quo.

According to the laws of turbulence (also known as chaos), that status quo will go on to create its own crises, and the whole thing will start all over, slowly at first and then with accelerating speed. And on and on it will go.

Pushed around

That young people just starting out should get more pushed around by economic fluctuations than adults who are well into their careers only stands to reason. It's one thing to be already on the turning carousel, comfortably bobbing up and down, quite another to try and jump on, especially when things are spinning out of control because the brakes have failed again.

No, we're not letting the young people down. In some ways we're more helpless than they are, quite pathetic really, hanging on to our smiling horses with ever so slightly mounting fear, stomach in ever so slightly tightening knots, as the world around us keeps whirling faster and faster, and it seems so dangerous with the kids being tossed all over the place while we feebly call out to them to be careful.

Enrico Giovannini is right, though. They're the nimblest, best educated generation ever, even if their spelling does leave a lot to be desired.

And no wonder. We nurtured them along with the most advanced educational toys our money could buy. We took them on daily visits to Sesame Street and everything it has to offer. We gave them the new math that made them think rather than just count. And if that wasn't enough we gave them their own commercialized teen culture as an early introduction to the real world.

They're a smart bunch, much smarter than we were when we were their age. It's been said they may just be smart enough to save the world.

Well, they're not likely to save the world from the red carpet that ushers them straight from college to the merry-go-round, nor are they likely to save the world once firmly seated on their bobbing horses.

This is not to suggest that unemployment is good for them. It isn't. But I'm not sure that investing their future in the increasingly dysfunctional carousel is the alternative either.

What may have a better chance of saving this generation, and the world for that matter, is what a 24-year-old graduate student from McGill University talked about when interviewed about the challenges of being young, well educated, and looking for a job. "You have to be incredibly comfortable with ambiguity," he said.

The media are watching this, witnessing it, describing it, analyzing it, and would have us know the young are in trouble.

Were they ever not?