This year I won the Natwest 'Everywoman award' for entrepreneurs under 25. I have set up and run my own business, the London Jewellery School, of which I've been director for four years, has a turnover of over £500k and makes a profit. To onlookers, this is recognisable success and I am very greatful to be where I am today.
However, this means very little in terms of standards of living. Like the majority of other people my age, despite having a regular income, I live a precarious, financially insecure existence. My flat, like most other 20-somethings I know without parental support, doesn't have a living room - we have to rent it out or wouldn't be able to afford to live there. I don't live in a palace. I live in a high-rise tower block, in zone 2 of South London.
It's currently easier to run a successful business than it is to buy a flat as a young person starting out on the property ladder. A 10% deposit of £20 or £30 grand just isn't realistic for those on average incomes, nationally £26k a year (according to the Office of National Statistics). Most of people's wages are going to landlords, especially for anyone renting in London where the average rent is now £750 per month. Most 20 somethings aren't earning anywhere near the national average and struggle to pay their rent, let alone have money left at the end of the month to save towards a deposit. The generations above us who benefitted from 'buy to let' are now taking half our incomes, if things continue in this manor how will we have any chance of building a future for ourselves?
I think the government needs to create more affordable houses if this situation is to change. The selling off of council houses and refusal of both the previous Labour and Conservative governments to build new council housing, coupled with the lack of new affordable housing has left young people in a dangerously precarious situation, with few safety nets against homelessness and poverty.
What message are politicians sending to my generation if ones deemed so successful their achievements are recognized with awards, still aren't allowed to live securely? I'm not ungrateful, I'm very thankful for every success i have had and feel lucky, but my point is to use myself as an example of the ridiculous economic situation we're in. Recently the International Business Times reported research that showed the cost of living standards had risen 45% in the last year. In response, George Osbourne last week announced a public sector pay freeze, (an actual pay cut if compared to inflation) and wages are stagnating across all sectors. This paints a very dark portrait of Britain today, even before the issue of unemployment is tackled.
At the end of the month, after student loan repayments, travel cards, electric and other bills I always find myself in debt. I haven't been out of my overdraft in years. This is becoming increasingly normal for everyone my age I know, who aren't gifted flats by parents or supported by Trust Funds. As a single person living in London on a decent wage for my age, I would need a huge pay rise to ever be able to get a mortgage on even a small house or flat to call my own and one day build a family in. And I say that as a successful business owner, if that is the case even for me, what chance do most young people have? And its not just young people, Pay Day Loans are now, according to the Guardian, over 1 million a month. The situation is a ticking time-bomb, but what's going to avert it?
At the London Jewellery School we often advertise new posts. We receive hundreds of job applications for each. Most are from people who are over-skilled for the role. We get applications from people with PhDs, bankers, those who've worked in the care sector - it's clear people from every field can't find employment any longer in it and are trying elsewhere. It's not that people aren't trying to find work - there aren't enough jobs and the private sector cannot be relied on to provide them.
There isn't some natural equation that the private sector creates money for everyone - just look at my case, or the statistic that only 1% of successful businesses (so forgetting those that fail) ever reach a turnover of more than one million.
Things inside Britain have to change or my generation will be a lost one. By lost I mean forever lining the pockets of landlords, trapped by debt, having a standard of living far below that of their parents. If those who are deemed successful entrepreneurs are still at the bottom of society, it's clear society even by it's own market terms, is failing.