The Daily Telegraph

Charlotte LYTTON

- Charlotte Lytton Celia Walden is away Online: Twitter: @charlottel­ytton

For the first time in six years, renting a house costs less per month than owning one. Which might sound like a win for the young, welldocume­nted as being forever slipping from the first rung of the housing ladder. In truth, it is anything but – locking them further into a state of permanent adolescenc­e.

Another hiatus to laying down roots among the renter generation, of which 25- to 34-year-olds account for the largest tranche, is not isolated to the housing sector. A Deloitte survey found that 30 per cent of Generation Z (those under 24) and a quarter of 25- to 30-year-olds had either lost their jobs during the pandemic or been placed on unpaid leave; globally, one in five millennial­s, aged 25-40, are out of work as a result of Covid, while two-thirds of graduates have seen their applicatio­ns paused or withdrawn. How do they rebuild? When?

The end of restrictio­ns on June 21 would, it was hoped, signal some kind of starting point. Instead, the hold-up – which is in part being blamed on the slowdown of the vaccine programme, and part of that being blamed on the shortage in supplies of Pfizer and Moderna, which young people require following Astrazenec­a safety concerns – means this afterthoug­ht generation has been given yet more to lose.

The traditiona­l markers of adulthood had long been inching away, beginning with home ownership. Life has changed, to a degree; if milestones shift, to be replaced with new ones, so be it. But renting has not become a cheap alternativ­e to home ownership, simply a very expensive way to end up with nothing. Letting costs jumped 7.1 per cent in May, compared with the same time last year – the fastest spike since 2013 – dwarfed only by the surge in house prices.

Buying a home is, in the short-term, about earning enough to afford a deposit; in the wider sense, it is about stability. Young people, who are half as likely to own a home than the generation prior, have never been less able to lay claim to either.

And so in lieu of homes they cannot afford, they have instead channelled their efforts into work. This does not pay – today’s adults, the most educated in history, have failed to see their earnings rise in kind. Add to that the significan­t roadblocks Covid has put in the way of the young at work: the unqualifie­d emerging from their studies into a world where on-the-job experience is virtually impossible (unless you have designs on a career as a delivery driver or in an Amazon warehouse); and those in their early years unable to learn from seniors, to make crucial connection­s. To use a phrase beloved of this Government, when is their turn to level up?

The longer it takes for life to return to normal – the longer house prices go up, and wages either go down or are taken away completely – the longer young people are forced into a “real-life” lockdown that won’t end when (if) restrictio­ns eventually do. Millennial­s and Generation Z-ers make up the majority of the workforce: the cost of higher youth unemployme­nt to the economy will be £6.9 billion come 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics – which will only grow as twenty- and thirtysome­things continue to languish.

As of last year, nearly two-thirds of childless single adults had either never left home or moved back, due to partner, career or home instabilit­y. What happens when those parents are no longer around to care for Britain’s 3.5 million boomerang adult babies? Even if their children end up inheriting their homes, they probably couldn’t afford the upkeep.

Adulthood does not specifical­ly mean a house, nor a career. But it does mean possessing the ability to “do life” – and as the uncertaint­y over reopening continues to bleed across all things, extending adolescenc­e beyond a few teen years into one that lasts decades, it’s hard to see how or when that will begin to take shape among the young.

During the pandemic the Government has talked often about livelihood­s, and its apparent desire to boost the economy. In forgetting its most active workers, it is hurting both itself and them. These are the people, after all, whose stalled milestones mean less tax being paid, fewer children being born. The best thing about teenagers is that they stop being them, eventually. With complete ignorance of the ramificati­ons of cutting generation­s of young people adrift, we will end up with millions of adolescent adults unable to perform the basic societal functions we have always taken for granted.

Things will return to normal again in four weeks, allegedly. For the young, it’s impossible to imagine it won’t be far longer.

A fifth of millennial­s are out of work due to Covid. How do they rebuild? When?

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