Gulf Today

It’s hard not to feel anxious for today’s children

- Will Gore,

It was very kind of Jeremy Hunt to reduce the rate of national insurance by a couple more pennies in the pound last week. But with the overall tax burden in the UK set to hit its highest level for 80 years, and with the price of everything skyrocketi­ng, I doubt many people were celebratin­g the chancellor’s latest Budget. It certainly didn’t feel like a moment that would swing the political pendulum in favour of the government. If anything, it simply served to show what a budget country the UK has become. The only good thing about being collective­ly tin-pot is that at least we’ve still got something to piss in. I’m an optimist usually, and a lover of the many good things Britain has to offer, but it’s hard not to feel a mite anxious for today’s children, who appear to be walking headlong into a tsunami of their forebears’ problems, and are further burdened by the expectatio­n that they’ll be able to find solutions for us all beneath the serf. Still, they might as well get on with it.

With that in mind, I was delighted when my daughter came home from school last week buzzing with talk about the careers fair she’d atended.

At 14, it’s not long before she’ll be moving into the workplace, and given the economic gloom, it probably makes sense to start earning sooner rather than later. I mean, we can start asking her for rent when she’s 16, right?

The highlight of the day seemed to have been taking part in some wood carving, which struck me as an unlikely career option for a child who can’t wait to ditch every practical subject at the end of year 9. A related leaflet about becoming a furniture maker looked lovely, but perhaps not an ideal match for her skill set. The same thought struck me when my daughter showed me a flyer about jobs with a bathroom manufactur­er.

Other bits of bumf related to being a firefighte­r, which at least could be a good antidote to her early childhood fear of the house burning down. She had also picked up a brochure about becoming a town planner, not two weeks ater delightedl­y giving up both geography and art for GCSE. All in all, I got the impression that the two hours had been a fun alternativ­e to double textiles at school, but unlikely to have inspired a future calling — or even to have provoked the thought of picking up a paid Saturday job. In fact, my daughter’s present idea for life ater education is to become an equine therapist. This sounds like a noble thing, helping people with disabiliti­es and long-standing health conditions through interactio­n with horses. But when I looked up the job’s pros and cons online, I was struck by the potentiall­y hety educationa­l and training requiremen­ts, versus what was described as a “low salary” expectatio­n.

Whether children ought to think about things like remunerati­on is an interestin­g question. It’s a classic middle-class approach to regard all talk of money as rather embarrassi­ng — and, just as my parents did, I tend to tell my kids that earning lots of cash isn’t the be-all and end-all. Much beter to aim for a job that’s fun and interestin­g. But actually, given the present economic outlook, that may be doing the children a disservice. And let’s be honest, if I want them out of the house for good before they hit their mid-twenties, I’m doing myself a disservice too.

Thankfully, while my daughter remains disarmingl­y unconcerne­d about how she might support her adult self, my son is much more focused on the moolah. At eight, he still has some time to work out the best way to rake in some decent dough, but he’s got a few alternativ­e career paths lined up.

Profession­al footballer remains the first choice, although he’s slowly starting to realise that this could be a tall order, given the competitio­n. Being a Youtuber, he reckons, is a more atainable option (but may be tricky for a child who gets embarrasse­d having his photo taken). If these two dreams don’t come to pass, he’s all in for a job in the law, having been inspired by the lifestyle of some family friends whose legal career path has ended up in the Cayman Islands. Frankly, I admire the ambition and am keen that he gets on with it. Ater all, money might not make you happy — but having enough of the stuff certainly makes life easier. If only the millionair­e prime minister and chancellor could come up with policies which make that a reality for all.

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