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Why Are Millennials Worse Off Than You Are?

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Why Are Millennials Worse Off Than You Are?

Ever feel like you’ve been set up to fail?

Millennials, as a generation, have been. And this isn’t the lament of over-indulged, basement-dwelling, spoiled brats complaining about having to pay student loans for a degree in the philosophy of memes. Data clearly shows that today’s young workers are basically screwed.

Millennials are doing worse than the previous two generations did at their age, even though they’re more likely to have a completed postsecondary education program and are part of the most productive workforce in memory.

The Guardian’s ongoing coverage of the financial struggles of the millennial generation paints a grim picture. Throughout Europe, Australia and the United States, today’s young workers are paid less, have higher debt and lower savings, and face a job market that’s still recovering from the recession and seems increasingly hostile to folks trying to start their careers.

Why is this happening?

A paper released last week by the Center for American Progress identifies the major reasons why young workers have it so much harder than their parents.

First, the labor market has not fully recovered from the recession, leaving a large pool of unemployed workers who can replace current workers who ask for better wages or working conditions. Why would a company that’s trying to maximize profit pay higher wages than they have to? Folks are just willing to work for less when the job market is weak. Crappy pay is better than none, right?

Second, it’s harder than ever to join or organize a union. Millennials’ union density is low, even though the benefits of union membership are significant. In fact, the union premium is higher for young workers than it is for any other age group. Without the worker power that comes from having a union, young workers are unable to negotiate for better pay and the kind of working conditions that make for a more productive and satisfying workplace.

So what are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it?

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on March 11, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Sarah Ann Lewis, esq., Senior Lead Researcher, Policy.


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