Our first economic experiences affect our relationship with work for life | Torsten Bell

Formative experiences in life are … formative. Our parents shape our future for good and ill, affecting everything from our relationships to the jobs we do. But our prospects are also shaped by our formative economic experiences.

The young have been hardest hit by this pandemic-induced downturn, following the general pattern of previous recessions. Resolution Foundation research reveals that the experience of young people entering the labour market during a downturn stays with them. They earn less for six years afterwards, compared with those starting work during a boom. Those graduating from university during the financial crisis saw their chance of working in a low-paying occupation rise by 30{7cf23ffd9f893b42e5168467dbdff3dd8c8539e14232c919813e000f7f93ca07} and that chance remained elevated for a full seven years.

But setting foot in the workplace during a downturn doesn’t just mean you earn less – new research indicates it also affects for life what you want from a job. Those entering the world of work in bad economic times become risk-averse, attaching more importance to income. Those who have had an easier time getting started by leaving education during a boom place more emphasis on the work being important and providing a sense of accomplishment. The lesson? We need to work harder on avoiding recessions if we want to protect young people’s job prospects and encourage them to get on with saving the world.

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