Gen Z is coming of age in the Covid crisis, with school leavers and graduates facing a jobs crunch, environmental crisis and widespread social anxiety.
Their response? According to research, it is to decide not to have children so they can retire early and put less strain on an overpopulated planet.
One in 10 childless 18- to 23-year-olds are considering not having children, according to the research carried out by the online pension providers PensionBee, citing plans to retire early as a key driver of their decision.
Marie, 23, who worked for a theatre company before the pandemic, said she had decided not to have children because she can’t imagine being able to afford it without working “for ever”. “I wanted children when I was younger but had begun to have second thoughts, then Covid hit. My partner and I both lost our jobs and I realised I’d never have the financial security to raise a family without working until I dropped,” she said.
“Once we came to the decision, we felt so relieved,” she said. “The world of work is no longer endless: I can see an end to it when I’m still young enough to enjoy life.”
Sam Miller has been with her partner since she was 14. “I want to be a writer and he wants to be an artist. We want a life with very few financial outgoings, where we’re not tied to paid work,” she said.
The research found that double the number of men than women across all age groups said they were considering not having children so they could retire early, while those working in the arts and culture sectors were more likely to say they would consider it than any other profession.
Not having children was something more likely to be considered by those in average to higher-paid jobs, with those earning between £25,001 and £55,000 more likely to state that it was something they’d consider than their lower-earning counterparts.
Londoners were the most likely to say they would not have children if it meant they could bring forward retirement, with 5% of respondents across all generations stating this. In contrast, not a single respondent in the north-east cited not having children as a way to bring forward their retirement.
A growing number of people are consciously opting to have fewer children for environmental reasons: a YouGov study last year found that of those British adults who were not already parents, more than one-third said that they wanted to never have children.
Prince Harry has said that he and Meghan will have “two [children] maximum”. The US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sparked a debate last year when she expressed her concern about the environmental impact of overpopulation, saying: “It does lead young people to have a legitimate question: is it OK still to have children?”
Jodie is 28 and single. “Previously, kids were on the agenda but I bought my house last year and figured I will pay my mortgage off by 48 years old at the latest and will be able to go down to part-time work for a couple of years before retiring.
“I look forward to spending less of my week at work. Having kids doesn’t fit into my agenda any more because the cost of raising them will mean longer to pay the mortgage off,” she added.