Kate Middleton hasn't got a job – and the Queen is reportedly not amused. Yet Prince William's girlfriend isn't alone in rejecting the 9 to 5, as more youngsters refuse to give up their pursuit of fun for a pay cheque, discovers Alice Wyllie
'GET off your arse and get a job!" is a popular mantra among tired parents with offspring in their early twenties who are unable or, increasingly, unwilling to enter gainful employment. Usually it falls on deaf ears. However, if those words came from the head of the British Empire, even the most slovenly member of Generation Y (the instant-gratification-seeking twentysomethings who largely inhabit MySpace) might hastily uncouple from their iPod and hotfoot it to the Job Centre.
Prince William's 26-year-old girlfriend, Kate Middleton, has reportedly heard through The Firm's grapevine that the Queen feels it's time she finds a job, beyond lunching with friends, getting regular blow-dries, cheering at polo matches and lounging about in the Caribbean. Yes, being a royal girlfriend may be a tough gig in its way, but the chances are Her Majesty won't fall for the old excuse that "someone's got to do it".
After all, this is a woman who has devoted her life to duty: a woman who worked as a mechanic during the war and is said to favour female members of the Royal family who earn their keep. A princess-in-waiting, knocking back treasure chest cocktails at Mahiki while the rest of the country tightens the purse strings is not doing much for the Royals' image.
However, it may be slightly trickier to cajole Kate into the world of the nine-to-five than Her Majesty anticipates. Last year, a study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which had surveyed 25,000 students when they left university in 2003 and then again in 2006, found that one in four graduates are employed in bars, cafes and other "low-level" jobs. A fifth of graduates are unemployed at least once during the first few years after finishing their course.
While a portion of those surveyed are undoubtedly unemployed or waiting tables because they find themselves with no alternative, many simply don't feel any pressure to plant their foot on that first rung of the career ladder.
"Kate Middleton belongs to a generation that the marketing world calls the 'New Millennials'," says Gwyneth Holland, of trend forecasting consultants The Future Laboratory. "They're used to being provided for. They're also leaving home later than their parents did, and don't feel the same pressure to support themselves.
"They're stuck in the 'indulgence decade' – the period between their early twenties and thirties – where they know they don't yet need to think about the responsibility of having children, so they focus on enjoying themselves. They're unwilling to trade their pursuit of fun for a pay cheque, and are used to getting everything they want, so they expect to enter the world of work at a relatively high position, rather than start on the bottom rung."
With no dependents and the sense that there's all the time in the world to don smart separates and go to work, it's little wonder that Generation Y isn't all that bothered about careers. After all, while Middleton has a 2:1 degree in art history, at 26 her CV is surprisingly bare, featuring only a brief spell working a four-day week as an accessories buyer for Jigsaw, and more recently photographing trinkets for her parents' website, Party Pieces.
The generation that's been handed everything often expects a glittering career to come next. When it doesn't happen, many put off 'serious' work in favour of travel or casual roles, rather than take a mundane graduate job.
"(They] have quite high expectations of what they're looking for career-wise (but] are not always realistic. They want to progress quickly and to instantly see the rewards that the previous generation worked hard for," says Jenny Ungless from online recruitment agency monster.co.uk.
For all those willing to work, many are still reluctant to start at the bottom. The generation that's been told that the world is their oyster want to be running the show, not doing the coffee run. And for those seeking instant gratification and unwilling to do the donkey work, there's always travel. For young people looking to do something exciting and impressive- sounding, but unable to land that hot job at a record label/magazine/TV channel, it seems dropping everything to mooch round south-east Asia is a popular option.
"There is an assumption among twentysomethings that everything's going to be fine; that they'll get everything they want from life," says Tom Griffiths, the founder of gapyear.com. We're noticing a trend for graduates who've been in the workplace for a couple of years to essentially stick two fingers up at their employers and go travelling, thinking they can return to work any time. They get the instant gratification they're looking for, they feel they're doing something exciting and that they're going to be fine. But that's not always the case."
Of course, job or no job, Kate Middleton will do just fine. Her parents are millionaires, she's tremendously well-connected and, if rumours are to be believed, she's on the verge of becoming engaged to our future King. Never the less, we'd suggest she hoofs it down to the Job Centre to see which employers may be seeking a glossy haired Sloane to work a four-day week, in order to appease her future husband's granny. After all, this is one set of in-laws you definitely don't want to tick off.