Age of Insecurity - Press release - RSA

Two thirds of young people are unsure they can rely on the government for help with financial security

Press release

London, 9 December – Polling to support the publication of new research into how young people feel about their economic prospects shows that fewer than 4 in 10 were confident they would receive the support they needed from the government (39%) or from wider society (38%).

The new report, ‘Age of Insecurity,’ reveals that young people are experiencing significant levels of isolation and anxiety because of housing costs and insecure work - two fundamental drivers of financial precarity.

One young person described their economic security as “absolutely terrifying” due to unstable employment, while others reported the “panic” they feel because of expensive rents which consume most of their income.

The report is the latest research from the RSA (royal society for the arts, manufactures and commerce) investigating economic insecurity. It builds on its ‘Cost of Independence’ report which was published in February and uncovered worrying levels of economic insecurity among young people.

The RSA’s Toby Murray, who authored today’s ‘Age of Insecurity’ report, said “Young people are often criticised by older generations for their attitudes to work, money, and opportunities. This is unfair. Our research shows that young people feel a deep sense of personal failure and responsibility when it comes to financial matters. They are not looking for handouts, but they worry about where support will come from if they need it. As a society we urgently need to look at fresh legislation and public policy ideas otherwise we will be condemning this generation to a lifetime of financial difficulty.”

The new report was conducted in partnership with the Health Foundation and reveals the detrimental impact economic insecurity can have on health and wellbeing. One young person revealed that their excessive workload meant they “relapsed with depression” and a common theme for many was sacrificing social activities “because of the cost”, which speeds up their spiral of isolation.

Risky behaviour

Our report describes increasing ‘atomisation’ amongst young people, where the social bonds that should support them are breaking down, feeding even greater feelings of economic insecurity. Young people who feel isolated and vulnerable can turn to risky economic behaviour for solutions. One young person admitted they had lost thousands of pounds in an investment scam trying “to earn money for [their] family… to be secure”.

Mr Murray continued: “The sources of support available to previous generations, such as social housing, trade union membership and better access to state support, would also help to ease the financial burdens stretching young people today to their limits. The problem is that it is harder to access these kinds of support, with longer waiting lists and high thresholds for intervention than ever before. Profound policy reform that has young people’s perspective at its heart is needed to protect and promote economic security among young people.”

Young people, in their own words

The RSA’s research into young people’s economic security has found that 47% are financially precarious. Whilst this figure is stark, the ‘Age of Insecurity’ report shows the reality for young people is even starker.

“Some months I get a bit sad, like, angry at myself for spending so much money for other times.” Yusuf

“The advice always changes. And it was, you know, when I was going through school, ‘go to university, go to university get a good job’. And now it’s ‘don’t go to university, it’s waste of time go into the trades, they’ll pay for everything’. And, and then in 10 years’ time, it will probably change again completely, you know?” Conor

“I find it difficult [to see how I’ll achieve] financial stability because of the lack of opportunities and the low pay and sort of slow progression of career in Liverpool and Bristol. Just because there's a sort of north-south divide from Liverpool and London and there's not a lot of opportunities there, not a lot of placements or internships there. I'll be moving to London… because that's where all the opportunities are unfortunately”. Thomas

“The salary I'm currently on isn't cutting the bills, and as prices are rising, I can afford less for the same amount of money”. Oliver

“In December time, they just sent me an email…saying, ‘Oh yeah, by the way… this is going to be your last shift with us, we're going to have to let you go’ sort of thing. It was the scariest point in my life because I was kind of like, oh my goodness, I'm going to have to write off a whole month of not being paid. And this, this is absolutely terrifying”. Arthur

“Actually [work] did have quite a bad impact on my mental health. I think so. Specifically in April, and I think it was March, so basically… the workload was getting a lot. And it really didn't have a good impact on my mental health because I wasn't getting enough food or sleep and, I'd be going into the office, and I'd have to sort of be there for long hours.” Freya

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