Australian property developer Tim Gurner recently caused a furor amongst Australian millennials, when he suggested the group has unrealistic expectations of the housing market.
“There is no question we are at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high,” he said.
“They want to eat out every day, they want to travel to Europe every year. This generation is watching the Kardashians and thinking that’s normal. Thinking that owning a Bentley is normal, that owning a BMW is normal.”
While Gurner’s analysis particularly focused on the Australian housing market, his rhetoric relates a broader strain of thinking, in the perceptions that millennials are the most spoilt, entitled, ungrateful generation in human history.
But is this hypothesis correct, and are millennials really the spoilt generation?
Speaking informed as a 21 year old and with most of my friends being in the millennial age category; there appears to be grains of truth on either side of this proposition.
From the ordinary measures of living standards, millennials do live in the greatest Australia that has yet existed.
Unlike generations before them, millennials are almost all able to complete their formal education, and record numbers attend university.
Further, millennials enjoy a luxurious welfare system, and are looked after by their parents more than ever before.
Medicare coverage is also an all time high, whereas generations before 1984 weren’t even afforded universal health care.
And while housing affordability is an issue for young people, the cost of basic material goods has plummeted in recent decades, due to rising industrialization in nearby Asia.
Unemployment remains relatively low, and the young in Australia overall face no existential crisis as did those who saw off the Great Depression, the two world wars, threat of nuclear conflict during the Cold War, deadly outbreaks of polio, or forced conscription of troops into Vietnam.
So for now, Australian millennials face no threat which fundamentally challenges their basic existence, as have past generations.
But there is another side to this narrative, as young people are facing unique challenges of their own.
Culturally and socially, Australia is an increasingly tumultuous place in many respects.
While in the past gender roles and societal expectations were clear, many traditions and customs have been thrown out the window.
The traditional model for Australians to grow up in a world in which their life path involved pursuing a 9-5, honest full- time job, finding a wife, having children, playing sport on the weekend and attending church on a Sunday is virtually gone, as now every different type of creed, language and race bring contrasting perspectives about what it means to be Australian.
Old Australia did not experience living alongside brazen advocates of Islamic terrorism, and were not forced to fear for their safety in public areas.
A quieter, more picturesque nation once existed, however modern millennials spend their prime years in cities increasingly defined by overcrowding and pollution.
Millennials are also subject to living in an era of rising anti- Australian sentiment, be it in pushes against Australia Day, or general disinformation spread about the nature of this great country’s settlement.
Therefore, after considering the environment in which Australian millennials find themselves left in, readily defining whether this group is ‘spoilt’ or ‘screwed’ in just a few sentences, would be an overly simplistic, inaccurate representation.
Although millennials are in various ways more fortunate than their forebears, this generation also faces a new set of substantive issues.
Nevertheless, if the spoilt millennial question re-emerges again in 15- 20 years, and the incoming tsunami or Artificial intelligence starts displacing workers at the rates many fear it may, this answer will be very different.