A voice for young New Zealanders

Andrew Dean may just turn out to be the voice young New Zealanders have been waiting for.

Dean is 26, and stressed by an economy that just does not add up for any but a tiny proportion of 20-somethings.

They have student loans to pay off.

Houses are beyond their reach.

They face low wages, high unemployment and a casualised labour market.

And they believe that when they get old, there will be no such thing as NZ Super.

All the basic building blocks of a prosperous, stable money life have been stripped from them by the political policies of the generation that was the last to benefit from free education, cheap housing, standard work contracts, and the certainty of NZ Super.

But for all its social media savvy, the 20-somethings are a generation that does not seem to have a voice.

It may have found one in Dean, whose Ruth, Roger and Me published by BWB Texts has just gone on sale.

It’s the story of where the bleak moneyscape the twenty-somethings face came from.

It is also a personal journey in which Dean, who will present the book at the Wanaka Festival of Colour this weekend speaking alongside outspoken economist Shamubeel Eaqub, seeks to understand how the neo-liberal policies of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson tore away the old economic certainties.

In their place have risen “disconnection” and “discomfort”, Dean says.

His generation feels disconnected from society, and told that the discomfort of their stressful, competitive lives is necessary to have a competitive economy, though Dean doubts some of the assertions the young are asked to swallow.

Take student loans. They are celebrated as having opened up education to more people, but Dean writes: “A significant proportion of the growth in tertiary education over the last twenty years has come in areas that were once uncredentialised, or for which the skills were learnt on the job with the costs paid by the employer, rather than borne by the student-employee.” Continue reading

Rob Stock is a Fairfax Media reporter specialising in money matters and anything else he finds interesting.

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