The statistics don’t lie, and they’re pretty darned depressing. Millennials are the most-educated generation ever. Since 1981, there has been a 58 per cent increase in the percentage of 25-29 year olds with post-secondary degrees or diplomas. Nearly half of millennials are underemployed in low-wage, dead-end jobs and unemployment for recent grads is double the national average.
Amid those, stunning, crushing numbers comes TVO’s My Millennial Life, which follows five twenty somethings struggling to find jobs—and an identity for themselves—today.
It’s easy to watch something like Saturday’s documentary—produced and directed by Maureen Judge—with a jaded eye. After all, these are all twentysomethings who want money, cars, houses and fame right now rather than work the decades it took generations before them to get there. It used to be folks got an education, graduated and then worked at one company until retirement. Today’s society is different, with 40-year-olds looking for work; where do kids half their age go to find a gig?
Hope saw herself living in NYC and working for a high-end magazine, going to parties and meeting celebrities. She dreamed of buying Louis Vuitton bags on a whim. Her reality? Buying knockoffs from a street vendor and living at home in Pennsylvania. James has a start-up company but is cash-poor; Meron wanted to be a MuchMusic veejay but cleans hotel rooms; Emily sits in her kitchen and listens to music in the apartment her dad pays the rent for and enrols in college to get the real-life skills she didn’t acquire in university; and Tim moved from Moncton to Toronto to make it as a musician but transcribes court testimony for money. There are plenty of tears as they describe the frustration of working in menial, low-paying jobs.
“I don’t know why I haven’t been hired,” Emily says at her lowest point. “I keep trying and trying, and I just need a chance. I just need that break and I don’t know what to do. At this point, I think there’s something wrong with me.”
My Millennial Life isn’t a total downer. Judge introduces the family, friends and loved ones’ of those featured, showing the support systems in place when things aren’t going well. And there is good news for a couple of the kids featured. But the fact remains: it isn’t getting any easier for millennials to realize their dreams.
My Millennial Life airs Saturday, May 28, at 9 p.m. ET on TVO. It can be seen on TVO.org following the broadcast.