Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
13 June 2024

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USR / USC Universitaire Studentenraad / University Student Council

‘Generation of Misfortune’

The term Generation of Misfortune refers to the majority of current students (including myself) who studied between 2015 and 2023 and were under the student loan system. Many consider us part of this so-called Generation of Misfortune. Personally, I believe that label lacks perspective.

Students who were never entitled to the basic grant and will eventually earn enough to repay their full student debt have missed out on approximately 13,000 euros in gifts (the amount of a four-year basic grant in 2015). While this is a significant amount, it’s oversimplifying to suggest that our generation solely faces misfortune or is uniquely burdened. Every generation has its own ups and downs. Those who attended university in the late ’70s and early ’80s faced a job market so dismal that unemployment seemed inevitable. Missing a few quarters of salary due to unemployment could easily result in a cost of more than €13,000 for a highly educated individual. Despite this, I suspect that those who consider themselves part of the Generation of Misfortune now may not sympathize much with that past generation, rightfully so, as they have likely overcome those initial hurdles by now. We are heading into a much better job market and, in my opinion, despite the 13,000 euros, have a stronger starting point.

Another recent example of generational setbacks is the upcoming changes in the pension system, which will adversely affect some generations, so a modification was made to ensure the system’s sustainability for future generations, including ours.

The term Generation of Misfortune also seems to imply that an entire generation is unlucky, whereas it actually applies only to the highly educated segment of our generation. Those whose education is still heavily subsidized by the rest of society. It’s ironic that highly educated individuals are considered part of the Generation of Misfortune while the less educated are not. I would argue that the group whose development receives more investment and subsequently attains a better position in the job market is actually the fortunate group, not the unlucky one.

Lastly, it lacks perspective to label people living and studying in the Netherlands as unfortunate. The Netherlands is one of the wealthiest countries globally, and our education system ranks among the world’s best. Anyone in that situation is fortunate, not unfortunate.

‘It lacks perspective to label people and studying in the Netherlands as unfortunate’

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