Millennial Unemployment: A Middle East-Style Revolution in the US?

by Aman Singh Das | March 23, 2011

  • My Vault

The New York Times featured an op-ed earlier this week written by a 24-year-old, attempting to compare youth unemployment in the U.S. with the revolutions in the Middle East. He writes:

Would American millennials resort to Egyptian-style protests to get a job?

“Having a job is supposed to be the reward for hours of SAT prep, evenings spent on homework instead of with friends and countless all-nighters writing papers. The millions of young people who cannot get jobs or who take work that does not require a college education are in danger of losing their faith in the future. They are indefinitely postponing the life they wanted and prepared for; all that matters is finding rent money"

Reading his analogy compelled me to analyze the social value of having a job, which further made me think of how this perception of millennial attitude threatens efficient development.

Investment in a College Degree Doesn't Always Payoff

I've noticed that often the voice defining this millennial view on the global recession is skewed towards a belief that jobs are a status symbol. This voice also believes that an investment in a liberal arts education should lead young people—by a smiling boss—into a cozy office (or a flexible work-from-home schedule), where they essentially get paid to craft spreadsheets and share snarky videos on Facebook.

In a nutshell, the lifestyle narrated by Matthew Klein, the author of the Times piece, says nothing about the youth experience in most other countries—especially not according to the parameters he lays down.

Some Millennials Can Afford to be Entrepreneurs…

Most twenty-somethings who are "educated but not formally employed" in the U.S. have access to more resources than almost anywhere else. Hopefully their broad college educations have taught them a bit about time management and implementing interpersonal skills.

They can afford to be freelancers or entrepreneurs with the belief that corporate jobs that were being doled out 10 years ago have become unfashionably obsolete (and yes, nonexistent).

…But Most Can't

Here's the thing: Society is relying on this class of accomplished and educated professionals to help solve their own problems as penny-wise social entrepreneurs, environmental and health scientists and cyber-stenographers for those who cannot figure out how to tweet.

It is up to us millennials to create a value for these services.

While we continue to hear from the Matthew Klein(s) of the world, what we don’t hear as much is the voice of employed millennials. Why? Because they're too busy paying bills and supporting families to blog about it with jobs that are far from glamorous.

The Youth Revolution in Egypt

The reality for the unemployed youth in the Middle East is that they need work so they can provide safe living conditions for their families—and they would be happy to be able to accomplish that any way possible, even if it means working as a cab driver, a housekeeper or a tutor.

And as far as losing faith in dreams about the future goes, I'm sure the majority of twenty-somethings on this planet would say it’s time to wake up because reality isn’t so bad…

--By Ruhi Shamim

Ruhi Shamim is a social media strategist specializing in sustainable small business, urban design and millennial trends.

Related:

CSR & Your Job Hunt: Just a Different Measure of Success
Critical Thinking & Social Entrepreneurship: A Harvard Graduate on a Financial Mission

Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated (NYT)

Filed Under: CSR

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.