At the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned governments of a growing intergenerational divide. Young people, he said, will “inherit the consequences” of decisions made by today’s world leaders. Those leaders are now failing not only young people, but also future generations—the 10 billion people who are likely to be born by the end of the century.
Guterres is right that divisions between generations are growing. In older, richer countries, we are seeing a historic reversal of a longstanding trend: Rather than enjoying upward mobility, young people are now often worse off than their parents. And as populations in these countries age further, leaders increasingly pander to older voters. In the U.K., for example, the government spends almost 50 percent more on pensioners than it does on children.
Meanwhile, in the world’s demographically younger countries, large numbers of young people find themselves deprived of a quality education and locked out of labor markets. Even where economic opportunities are available, they are meager: 55 million young workers worldwide—some 13 percent of the total—live in poverty.