With the cost of living soaring, the economy still suffering the effects of Covid, and a recession looming, it seems inevitable that job security and financial stability are at the forefront of people’s minds. But what impact is this having on young peoples’ pursuit of their dreams?
Numerous worrying statistics have been released over the last couple of months, which show that rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis are really starting to take hold.
Inflation rose to a 40-year high of 9% in April, and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicts that real disposable household income will fall by 2.2%, equating to the biggest fall in standards of living since the 1950s. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that increasing numbers of people are struggling to pay their mortgage, household bills and in particular their energy bill, with 87% of people reporting an overall increase in their cost of living.
The rising cost of living is having a widespread impact across the job market, with more than a third of workers considering changing jobs to combat these increases and almost half living payday to payday, according to a survey by Totaljobs. With a third cohort of young people graduating into a post-covid economy, I wanted to share my experience of choosing security over chasing my dreams, and talk to other young people about how Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis have affected their decisions about their future.
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever felt a natural aptitude for. Regrettably, I stopped writing as a teenager before reconnecting with my old passion after graduating from university three years ago. During my time at university, I got a job at a supermarket, intending to stay there until I graduated. Five years, one promotion and a pandemic later, I’m still there, although feeling like I shouldn’t be.
I’ve always enjoyed my job but I’m also acutely aware that I’m not fulfilling my potential or making use of my qualifications. I’m also becoming increasingly embarrassed to say that I still work in a supermarket when I know I’m capable of so much more. Understandably though, the appeal of a secure, permanent, full-time job is hard to refuse, yet I feel that at just 24, I shouldn’t be giving up on my dreams of writing for a living just yet.
Like many young people, the effects of Covid-19 on the economy and the rising cost of living are weighing heavily on my mind. Is now the time to be changing jobs? Are jobs in the arts secure enough? Can a writing job pay me enough to live on? All questions I’ll never know the answer to until I take a step in that direction.
I spoke to some other young people to find out how Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis has impacted their decisions about their career paths.
Rosie from Sheffield
Rosie, 25, is originally from Sheffield but now lives and works in London, having moved there to pursue a career in fashion. Rosie explains how she always loved dressing up when she was younger and took up sewing as a teenager, meaning “fashion became my natural path”. Rosie graduated during the summer of 2020 and was on track for a promising career in visual merchandising. She had hoped to help limit the environmental and overproduction issues she’d seen in the industry, and one day launch a swimwear brand to help women swim with confidence – something she still hopes to do.
“I have a first-class honours degree in fashion buying and brand management, however, I am now set to become a registered learning disability nurse at the end of the summer.”
During the first Covid-19 lockdown, seeing the world’s clothing stores close and the increasing pressure and staff shortages faced by the NHS, as well as her own increased faith and desire to live a simpler life, led Rosie to rethink what career she should pursue. “I had worked a very rewarding job with adults with learning difficulties before going to university”, she explained, so she applied for a post-graduate diploma in learning disability nursing.
Rosie commented, “people have had to put aside their passions and dreams to focus on responsibility and a well-paying job throughout human history”. But in the current climate, young people in this country aren’t even able to get a well-paid job and have little hope of being able to afford a house, she added. Rosie also expressed her frustration that as a generation, we are told we’re to blame. “We are told it is not due to poor economic management or lack of government support for affordable housing … but because we buy too many avocados or subscribe to Netflix.”
Shannon from Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Shannon, from Berwick-Upon-Tweed, dreams of working in social media and marketing but currently works front of house in a restaurant. She was working in marketing at the start of the pandemic but like many people, working from home took a toll on her mental health, so she decided to move to a job with set shifts that would allow her to switch off from work more easily. Shannon had hoped to one day set up her own Social Media Marketing company but Covid brought an end to that; for now at least:
“I lost all confidence … and knew I needed a different job so I could have that stable income.”
Shannon can see herself getting back into her dream career one day but admits “it will be a good ten years down the line”. In the meantime, she will be focusing on “working on courses and education on the side while ensuring I have a stable income”. Regarding the cost-of-living crisis, Shannon explained that young people seem to be delaying the pursuit of their dream careers as they “need the stable income to combat high prices”, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on their mental health.
It’s likely to be some time before the true scale of the repercussions from Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis become clear, but it’s apparent that young people’s aspirations are already being hit hard.
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