Teenagers in the twenty-first century have a position of great privilege. Our ancestors’ work has given us so much wealth, education and stability that we cannot complain about any systematic injustices without being at best misguided, and at worst arrogant and ungrateful. At least that’s what we’re led to believe by our parents and teachers. To me, this generation faces problems which, despite being overlooked by our elders, threaten every aspect of our lives.

Declining Demography

One of the main complaints that adults have of teenagers is that there are far too many of them roaming the streets at night, doing class A drugs and pulling heists at the local HSBC.

Despite the obvious inaccuracies with this, I would argue that the most important one is the myth that there are too many of us. The birth rate required to sustain a population is 2.3 children per household. The birth rate in the UK is 1.8. This may not sound disastrous (and it isn’t) but after decades of declining fertility rates, one in five British citizens are over the retirement age.

What does this mean for us? It means that when teenagers are of working age, the burden of paying for the medical treatment and pensions of the ageing population rests on our shoulders. In other words: higher taxes. To achieve a reasonable standard of living, our generation needs to be thrifty and economical. The previous generation, the millennials, are the highest-educated in history, but also the lowest paid. Unfortunately, this downward trend shows no sign of changing any time soon.

Severe Underemployment

The reason there’s no sign of change leads me to my next point: underemployment. In the past, innovation has always led to more jobs. The mechanization of farms led to unemployed people getting jobs in factories, leading to the Industrial Revolution. The creation of the Ford Model T allowed workers to live further away from their place of employment, leading to the building of many houses. Throughout history, innovation led to prosperity for all. Until now.

Improvements in technology have undoubtedly helped humanity, however things are slowly taking a turn for the worse. In 2016, the fast food chain MacDonald’s introduced self-help kiosks in their restaurants, firing thousands of workers in the process. Supermarkets the world over have self-checkouts, with similar effects. In November 2017, a group of economists released a report saying that by 2030, 800 million workers could potentially be replaced by robots.

What does this mean for us? It means that teenagers will continue to have lower wages and limited opportunities, making it even more important to be thrifty. There’s no clear-cut solution, and it’s very difficult to predict what the future holds in this regard, but it is certainly something that our generation must be aware of.

National Security Threats

So far, all our problems have been economic. There is one last issue that poses a major threat to our generation: security. The last war that seriously threatened the UK was World War II, almost 75 years ago. Since that time, there has been no direct conflict in Western Europe, and despite some worrying threats in the form of the IRA and Soviet Union, the population could rest assured that nothing bad would befall them.

But recent events have cast doubts over the safety that we’re all so used to. In the past few years, there have been devastating terrorist attacks throughout Europe, with several being in the UK. Britain’s terrorist threat level has been raised to ‘severe’, and the number of terrorist-related arrests is the highest in history. Additionally, Russian expansion has worried the West, and the rise of China certainly hasn’t alleviated any paranoia from the public.

What does this mean for us? Firstly, I feel inclined to state that I don’t think that we’re facing anything as bad as World War II, and there are definitely people who have taken these problems at face value and used them to justify their uninformed opinions. In fact, the main problems that we will face arise as a result of these people.

Brexit and the shambles that followed mean that our economy could potentially take a huge knock, and it sometimes feels that our civil liberties are being excessively curbed in the name of counter-terrorism. Recent attacks also make the security threats all too obvious. Teenagers will have to find solutions to these dangers without giving rise to hate and prejudice, something previous generations have failed to do.

What We Can Do

To conclude, every generation has faced their own unique problems. Ours is no different. We need to be intelligent in coming up with solutions, which requires innovation. Adults don’t have to aid us in this, but telling us that our lives are easy certainly doesn’t help. So, next time you complain about how easy we all have it, just remember who’s paying your pension.

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