You are in your early twenties and are preparing for a good life after leading the certificate chasing lifestyle your parents promised would bring success. You learned hard. You stayed away from distractions that would hinder your future success. You kept studying to ensure your surefire success. You worked hard and kept your grades within touching distance of the first position throughout junior and senior high, and got your first or second class honours at a reputable institute. Job well done.
What is your reward, I hear you wondering? Well, it’s this; you currently live with your parents and don’t make much money. Your once understanding folks are now grumbling about your extended stay in their home (which was your home without question not too long ago). You have no idea why your hard work hasn’t manifested itself in success because the job market is not giving you what your parents assured you it would. It makes no sense how you put in that work and earn close to nothing. You have a wage but can’t freely spend it on yourself, and within a blink of an eye, have little left of it after payday.
Did you visualize all that? Good, because some of us live it. That is the life of the average young person in 2021. Daily, we wonder; why are we not secure financially? Why can’t we afford decent apartments? Why don’t we have cars or any of the things promised to us in our youth? Why is making minimum wage so backbreaking and depressing, and why can’t we afford anything with our hard-earned money?
The Harsh Reality
Young people believe that life is a lot harder for us. It seems like a self-centred assertion to make, given that life has always been hard for every generation. I mean, we weren’t born during the great depression or either of the World Wars; those people had it tough. And we are a generation that has the technology and the internet aiding us. We should have it easy.
Yet when you look at how things are for us, you can’t blame us for feeling hard done by the times.
Think about it; it is the year of our Lord 2021; young 26-30-year-old men cannot afford houses. Previously by that age, a man must have his life together. It is still a standard we live by, but that is not possible for us in 2021. By that age, a man should be able to provide for his nuclear and extended family. He should have secured a job, a house and a car as recognized first steps to the rest of his life. But Lord knows how hard this is getting.
First off, we need to navigate through a broken economy that is doing no one any favours. Secondly, It isn’t a lack of opportunities that is the problem; in fact, many more opportunities exist that our fathers and their fathers were not privy to, true. You can get a certificate or start a business. Entrepreneurship has opened doors to more opportunities for the average young man. Thirdly, and unfortunately, we still need the luck to succeed, but it isn’t spread evenly to all.
Essentially, starting our lives in this very unaccommodating time is unbearable. It is not a gender thing either. Most young people, male or female, are juggling multiple jobs to survive. We must have office jobs, as well as side hustles, to make minimum wage. That minimum wage is GHC1500.00, and that amount is merely a dream for young people in the workforce at the moment. It is unattainable.
First of all, the economy is a problem, in a time when more young people are in the job market than ever before. There are fewer spaces in the workforce to find ourselves in after school. Second, even when we get those places, promotions and raises are not assured. Neither is job security; in a time where competition is the hardest. We have to compete with many older individuals who have longer tenures and many more years of working experience and qualifications behind them. In essence, young men and women today don’t have the safety net that years of savings and hard work used to afford our predecessors. We don’t even get the chance to earn those years of experience. We have the qualifications, mind you, but our trajectory in our organizations will be static for a long time.
Unfortunately, again, that in itself is not the problem. Making it in life isn’t necessarily easy; we can’t complain. The real problem is the amount of spending we make in this time and this economy. We don’t have the luxury of years of savings to count on; because we can’t save. Take away the exuberant spending habits of most young people today. That is a problem, but consider our point of view.
Today’s younger generation must navigate through 30 days a month with the money we make in this economy. The times demand an extreme form of frugal living to do so. Keep in mind, with rising taxes, inflation and new objects to buy on the market: spending is like a stab in the back for young people.
Commuting is another issue that hurts our wallets. Moving from multiple areas within the Capital city to Accra, Tema or Circle costs no less than Ghc4.00. Using some quick mathematics, that’s a total of Ghc8.00 for a back and forth commute a day. That amounts to 40.00 Cedis a week spent on transportation alone. That’s assuming you don’t own a car, which would cost more.
It seems a small price to pay, but for anyone earning less than GHc1500.00 a month, that’s a lot of spending. I have not even factored in other expenses. Let me list them for you:
We are spending on food and lodging.
We are paying insane utility bills.
We are paying back the money we borrow to survive.
We are lending money to our friends.
We are spending money to take care of our extended family.
We are somehow making recreational spending.
We are dealing with miscellaneous expenses we don’t even factor into our budget. I don’t even want to do the math here. And the worst bit, and I’ve mentioned it twice, is young people are doing all this spending on minimum wage in a broken economy. I need to emphasize that well.
The Point of the Argument
I don’t have a reasonable solution for any of this. I don’t control the economy, so I’m not going to blame the government or the older generation for the financial woes of young people today. I am not a financial expert, so I can’t suggest the way forward from here.
I can only point out a grievance that many young people I speak to have. Times are harder on the youth. We are young, lack experience and have nothing but the image of a future painted by our parents. We are disgruntled. The economy is a problem, and we are at a disadvantage.
The writer is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)