Not too long ago an article carried by a popular website on the financial misery of India's urban Millennials generated furore and fury in equal measure among India's digital denizens. Needless to say, there was much tweeting and typing in the aftermath. Those holding the contrarian view wasted no time in pointing out that it was a mess of Gen-Y's doing, a generation that adds more zeros on the credit card bill than are there on their paychecks.
In India, which bucks most global trends (read: iPhones and the newspaper industry) or catches up with them later, the idea of urban Millennial poverty hasn't really permeated. The notion that a generation which grew up tasting the fruits of liberalization, handed both resources and opportunities, now complains that it is poor, sounds outright audacious to most Baby Boomers. To them, using the term "poor" for a demography that can't make ends meet due to (allegedly) poor lifestyle choices is nothing short of blasphemy in a country where 29.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
And here in lies the glitch: One can't possibly compare a section of society that has never had the wherewithal to make a better life to another section that has had all the means, but can't make ends meet due to circumstances that are at times not always in their control. We have to be where the jobs are, and most jobs are in cities where the cost of living is ludicrously high.
So, although we may have studied and slaved for a better standard of living than the Baby Boomer generation, a combination of rising cost of everything, student loans and poor wages have left us in a situation that renders Gen-Y nearly impoverished at the end of the month. Public sector banks in India have given education loans to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore with delinquency rates hovering at eight to nine percent. For those in professions that aren't high paying as IT, banking, law or medical, starting salaries barely cover rent and other necessary expenses.
Starting salaries in jobs that especially aren't the aforementioned range from Rs 20,000 to Rs 33,000 per month approximately, and they rise rather slowly. While we may be spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing career paths, the truth remains that very few of those paths lead to a pot of gold at the end of the month.
In India, society is still grappling with the "poor" terminology and which section of its demography it's best reserved for. The rest of the world, somewhat grudgingly, is now coming face-to-face with the problem of the poor Millennial.
In America, one in five Millennial parents is living in poverty. They are, in fact, the poorest in the last 25 years. In New York alone, Gen-Y earn 20 percent less than the previous generation and may never be able to bridge that income gap. On the other end of the globe, in Australia, reports say,
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has monitored the average net worth of the population — individuals' dollar value of what they own after all debts and liabilities are accounted for. Adjusted in real terms, the household net worth for people aged 15 to 24 grew by less than $30,000 between 2004 and 2012. In the same period, people in their mid-50s and early 60s saw their net worth grow by $179,000.
Gen-Y, to its increasing dismay, is now finding out that the pre-prescribed method of success — high grades plus a bachelor's and master's degree — do not necessarily add up to a well-paying job or a good quality of life. And those who laid out the rules — the Baby Boomers and the Millennial bashers — are rather reluctant to accept that poor isn't always as poor looks.