LIKE many of his generation, Conor Murray-Gauld is having to balance his studies with two part-time jobs to survive financially.

While the 21-year-old is confident his degree in information systems will lead to a good job, he is still concerned about what the future holds.

"I rent a flat and don't own anything yet, but it is a genuinely terrifying prospect – how I am ever going to afford these ridiculous mortgages or even qualify to get one," he says.

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"I'm good with my money, I'm a hard worker and I have always had part-time jobs since I was 15.

"But I still have no idea what it is going to be like in five or 10 years time when I start thinking about looking for a house or having a family."

With jobs difficult to come by, an inability to get on to the property ladder and often a huge burden of debt by the time they finish studying, the prospects facing today's young are so grim that fears have been raised of a "lost generation".

Their situation is in sharp contrast to the experience of their baby-boomer parents born in the two decades before 1965. As well as benefiting from easier access to housing and generally low unemployment when starting out in life, many are now reaping the benefits of massive house price inflation over the decades and generous pensions and benefits such as free bus travel – leading to accusations of pulling up the ladder behind them.

The Intergenerational Foundation, which says it aims to promote fairness among generations, recently did a survey of top economists on the issue, the result of which will be published shortly. Foundation co-founder Angus Hanton said the study found that a "large majority" of the experts believe that the economic prospects for the baby boomers' children are worse than for the baby boomers themselves.

One key aspect, he said, is a failure of the older generation to face up to the "revolution in longevity" which has happened over the past 40 years.

"Baby boomers are living longer than they expected and therefore the promises they made themselves – for example, pension promises – amount to a lot more of a burden on the younger generation," Hanton said.

"But they have not responded to that – the Government, for example, hasn't significantly reduced government employee pensions. What that amounts to is about £45,000 of pension obligation to government employees per household."

further education

Despite the uncertain times for his generation, Murray-Gauld, who attends Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, points out that as the first one in his family to go to university, he enjoyed opportunities that his mother did not have.

Yet going on to further education brings its own problems for today's generation of youngsters. The average student debt on graduation can be as much as £15,700 in Scotland – and a degree no longer holds the guarantee of a job.

Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said: "I meet university graduates who have worked right through their time studying, at a bar or cafe, then they take that job when they graduate because they can't find something in what they want their career to be.

"Just getting on that first rung of the career ladder is incredibly difficult just now. There are also people out there who can't find a place in education, whether that is university or college or an apprenticeship, and can't find a job.

"That is why we think there needs to be as much investment into education as possible – there is a danger of this generation being a lost generation who don't have any opportunity in front of them."


Housing is another key issue, with the average property in Scotland now costing around £140,000 – nearly six times the average wage of just over £24,000.

To illustrate how property values have shot up over the past four decades, last week the housing charity Shelter published UK-wide figures which showed that if the house price inflation which has occurred since 1971 was applied to food, four pints of milk would cost around £10.45 and a chicken would cost £51.18.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "What you now have is an older generation of the baby boomers that undoubtedly have benefited from house-price inflation.

"But the younger generation are struggling – not just in terms of the young people across the UK who are out of work at the moment, but for those who are in work.

"Just getting the deposit and getting some form of affordable mortgage for them is very, very difficult.

"Those who can are relying on the bank of mum and dad, but not everyone can do that."


A JOSEPH Rowntree Foundation report published last month highlighted statistics which show the number of under-25s who are unemployed in Scotland has almost doubled since 2008 to 90,000.

According to the figures, the number of pensioners living in poverty north of the Border halved over the past decade, from 240,000 to 120,000.

However, those who work with youngsters facing issues such as unemployment are questioning whether it is helpful to be comparing today's young people to previous generations.

Charis Robertson, of The Hot Chocolate Trust, a Dundee-based youth-work organisation, said the young people involved in the project were critical of the notion of being a "lost generation", despite facing often "very difficult scenarios" such as homelessness, substance misuse and pregnancy.

"They are keen to challenge the negativity around young people and the concept of there being a homogeneous group of young people – whereas actually they are all different," she said.

Robertson also argued it was vital to have a positive attitude to encourage young people to achieve, rather than too much focusing on the "doom and gloom".

"It's important to acknowledge that life is hard, but they don't really need to be reminded of that," she said.

"When you are sleeping on your friend's sofa because you have been kicked out of your home, then you know life is hard."