My generation has to choose between a child or a career. We cant afford both | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Rising house prices, precarious incomes and the gig economy all mean a lack of stability for people in their 20 and 30s. No wonder we arent having children

When is the right time to have a baby? Most people will tell you there is no one right time, but equally, we must surely admit that certain living conditions are preferably in place such as having a stable roof over your head.

The news that rising house prices in England seem to have led to a drop in birth rates will come as no surprise to those in their 20s and early 30s who would quite like to settle down but dont feel that their life is set up for it. The luxury of owning a house, as it is today, is something many of us have written off as achievable altogether. Those of us who rent especially in big cities find ourselves priced out of the property market, and the resultant instability makes starting a family feel like a distant prospect.

As hard as we work to save what we can, in spite of the low pay and high rents that have become the norm, house prices continue to rise and the savings you accumulate become distinctly less impressive. The house you one day hope to own is a mirage that never seems to get any closer.

Even if you do get a deposit together, whether through years of saving or the so-called bank of Mum and Dad (a phrase I loathe more each time I hear it, but maybe Im just bitter that Im not a customer) you may then find it hard to get a mortgage. The rise of precarious freelance work, zero-hours contracts and the gig economy since the financial crisis hardly make you a desirable applicant.

So youre stuck in rented accommodation, often in terrible conditions damp, decrepit, cold, with a boiler that keeps failing and, if youre in a rough area in order to make the rent more affordable, a neighbour who is dealing and another whose domestics mean regular visits from the police. Hardly an environment youre keen to bring a child into.

Whenever I write about just how depressing things are for British young adults at the moment, Im told that Im a whining, entitled millennial who should pipe down and move out of London. To those I would say that firstly, this is a national problem, as I have long documented. I have spoken to young adults from up and down the country who are distressed at their lack of opportunity. Some are desperate to have children, but fear that option is closed off to them. No one wants to bring a baby into a life of poverty and instability. Indeed, those who choose to do so are ruthlessly demonised in the rightwing press.

Secondly, I would like to ask these people just what kind of capital city they envisage. One in which only upper middle-class people and their offspring can afford to live? Many of the best jobs are in the big cities, so is the argument that the only people who can expect to be able to take advantage of that are those already financially privileged? Its a rather anti-social mobility position. Theres a hideous know your place-ness to these arguments, not to mention a distinct lack of empathy from a generation that benefited from all kinds of helpful leg-ups that used to exist before the social contract broke down.

Young adults are now used to being mocked when they bring up how bad they feel things have become. Were spoilt babies who need to grow up, we are told. Yes, its true that were existing in a state of prolonged adolescence, but many of us actually want to grow up. This falls on deaf ears. A lot of us crave nothing more than a bit of adult-style stability, but perhaps its easier for the generations before us if they convince themselves that we are happy as we are that we want it like this. You cant have it both ways. Its like insisting on calling someone Peter Pan when he keeps screaming that all he wants in the world is a couple of kids, a shed, and a Ford Mondeo.

A further side-effect of all the jobs being in the cities is the fact that, inevitably, all the young people flock there. This takes them far away from the families and their support networks, meaning they have few people to rely on for help with childcare. Childcare is so expensive now and rents so high that I cant even begin to imagine how a couple who are both working can pay the bills if they do choose to procreate in a rented flat. Rents are simply not designed to be affordable for couples in which there is only one breadwinner, either.

So this is the choice many young people face: leave the city, and possibly a job you love, for a part of the country in which housing is cheap but job opportunities are scarce. A child or a career. No wonder so many are putting off making the choice, despite the undeniable pressure of the biological clock. Because whatever you choose, your heart might just end up broken.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/14/generation-child-career-afford-house-prices

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