You ask me what changes I would like to see beyond myself? Well, here are some stuff that really bug me and I would like them changed. Wake me up when they are done.
- Fixed flight/train charges – why do we need to pay more for the same seat and same service depending on when we bought the tickets???
- Free education, up to professional level. Yeah I got my undergraduate degree paid by the government, but that was enough to gain graduate basis for registration to the professional body that governs my profession. Graduate basis for registration, not actual registration. No. To get that, I need stage 1 (MSc, cc £4,500-£8,000) and stage 2 qualification (Doctorate or professional training, cc £15,000+). Do you know what free undergraduate degrees but not further qualifications result in? A bottle neck effect. A bunch of basic trained graduates who all compete for the few and far in-between scholarships, internships and paid assistant positions. Not good for one’s aspirations and self esteem, let me tell you.
- Living wage that reflects living costs. There’s a new “national living wage” introduced from April this year that is rolled out all over the country and it means that everyone who is age 25 or over and is employed, must be paid at least £7.20 an hour. Good, yeah? No. When I first got a job in the UK age 19, I earned about £5.60/h. I got by, somehow. I didn’t have huge expenses, I wasn’t in education, I had no debts to pay back. I continued working while I was studying, and as I had my undergraduate fees paid by the government, I was fine. Tired, but fine. Then I continued with an MSc, which I had to self-fund, and things weren’t so rosy any more. Age 24 and months from graduating from my MSc, I was working AND studying full time, earning £6.60/h. Yeah, I wouldn’t call that a living wage. But the thing is, even the new £7.20 is ridiculous, when you consider that:
- it only applies to those age 25+. I left home a month after my 19th birthday, and I know people leave even earlier than that. I worked and tried to self sustain on my meagre wages. I was lucky that I had low rent, barely needed to take a bus, and could share food with my flatmates. But is that sustainable in the long term? No. I know I wouldn’t want to be sharing a flat with 3-4 others when I’m 30, or move back with my mum.
- £7.20/h gets you net £1,060 a month. Average monthly rent in Scotland is £539. Average monthly energy cost is £112. Council tax depends on how many you share with and what band the accommodation is, but can be anything £40-100. If you don’t mind sharing, you mind find a room to rent with bills included for £500. Food, if you’re savvy, can be about £100-150 a month, £200-300 if you like to go out. So you have shelter and food. But what about transport? Clothing? Debt repayments? Now you do the maths.
- for £7.20/h, you might have to make 30 skinny vanilla lattes, distribute 200 fliers, or type up 1000 words worth of minutes. You could be dealing with people who present with challenging behaviour (think hair pulling, spitting, kicking, hitting, slapping, absconding, throwing of objects). You may be making big mac after big mac. You may be serving pints to the overly inebriated. You might be unclogging toilets as a trainee plumber. And do that for 40 hours a week, ad infinitum. The prospects are just great.
- Religious tolerance. I don’t care who you worship as long as you let me make my own decisions about my belief systems, and I offer the same to you. Also, let’s not mix religious beliefs with politics.
- Collaborative consumption. I admit I am a product of my time. I grew up with notions of property and ownership installed in me from a young age. This s my t-shirt, that’s my sisters, this is my toy, that’s hers. I might lend you my rubber in maths class, but if you ask me ten times, I’ll get upset – why can’t your mum just buy you one? I shared a flat with various flatmates ever since I moved away from home, but I kept my stuff in my bedroom, and in some places even locked the door when I left the house. I daydream about the day I can have my own place and I have pinterest boards to show for my plans, even though I dread the prospect of having a mortgage. I have a bookcase full of books that I drag from one rented room to the next, books I wouldn’t part with but have no time to read. I like owning them. I recently read an article in the Times about how we can change the world for the better, and collaborative consumption came up as one solution. Instead of being obsessed with owning things, be it stamps, CDs, BluRay, houses or yachts, we could (should) share it. I do believe that the current Generation Rent is partly because the previous generations were so obsessed with climbing that damn property ladder that there’s no empty rungs for us to set a foot on. So we are forced to rent, to share. And while I’m not too happy about the unlikelihood of me becoming a property owner any time soon, I do believe that collaborative consumption has its merits. I recently re-joined the library and I’m reading books that I could not find in digital formats. Yes, there are such books still. I also enjoy my Prime membership not only because I get to buy stuff and have it delivered the next day (although it’s a neat service), but also because I can watch movies and TV series for the same fee, and legally. Maybe collective consumerism could be expanded, for example to text books.
- Unicorns. Unicorns would be cool. Start with that.