Baby boomers 60 years of boomers: The generation of the many under criticism

In 2024, the age group with the highest number of births in the Federal Republic will be 60. The baby boomers will have to listen to a lot of accusations from “Gen Z”. And that doesn’t just apply to the way they use their smartphones.

Boomers are easy to spot. You tap on your cell phone with one finger. They stay in the “writing” status forever and then only send one sentence. They use emojis incorrectly, for example they don’t know that the crying face should only be used ironically. They print out e-tickets to be prepared for the eventuality of their battery failure.

Boomers are called Sabine and Susanne, Thomas and Michael. They use phrases like “Give the fin, comrade” and respond to “Be well” with “Do better.” They don’t shy away from asking their 18-year-old great-niece about her “love life” at family gatherings. And those are still the harmless points. The really annoying ones come when they express their opinions on gender, veganism or climate change.

That’s the view of many late-born people. Now in 2024, the boomers will probably be talked about more often, because the age group with the highest birth rate in the Federal Republic – that of 1964 – will be 60 years old.

From Trump to Michelle Obama

After 1964, the pill made its presence felt and births went downhill. Accordingly, the baby boomer years are often located between 1946 and 1964, between the end of the World War and the pill break – or in other words: from Donald Trump and Udo Lindenberg (both 1946) to Michelle Obama and Hape Kerkeling (both 1964).

However, this classification primarily applies to America, says social policy and financial expert Martin Werding, one of the five German “economic sages”. In Germany, the baby boomers began much later after the war than in the USA and were also significantly weaker. “In our case the peak was 2.5 children per woman, in the USA it was 3.8,” explains the Bochum professor, himself born in ’64, to the German Press Agency.

However, “Gen Z”, the generation born around the year 2000, doesn’t take the classification so seriously. For them, it often feels like everyone over 40 is a boomer. And that’s not meant as a compliment. With “Ok Boomer” the boys usually express their frustration with attitudes that are perceived as narrow-minded.

When New Zealand MP Chloe Swarbrick (born 1994) from the Green Party parried the heckling of a right-wing conservative critic with a curt “Ok Boomer” a good four years ago, it sparked enthusiasm around the world in her age category.

Full classes and mass unemployment

The criticism of the boomers is essentially based on the fact that they have consumed unrestrainedly throughout their lives and have thus driven the planet to the wall. Instead of at least humbly acknowledging this now, they downplayed their responsibility, continued jetting around the world, pushing cyclists aside with their SUVs and blocking old apartments that were much too large for young families.

Those who are scolded in this way naturally have a slightly different view of themselves. What accompanied them throughout their existence was a feeling of fullness: they crowded into the class with 40 people and later could often only follow the university lecture on screens because of the lecture hall was crowded. The journalist Jochen Arntz, who published the book “1964 – Germany’s Strongest Vintage” ten years ago, often felt like life was like a trip to Jerusalem – you always had to make sure you got a place.

“The baby boomers in Germany are a generation that was hit hard by mass unemployment when they entered the job market,” says Werding. “I graduated from high school in 1982, and the motto of those years was “No Future.” Labor market research tells us: This leaves behind “scarring effects”, i.e. lifelong disadvantages in terms of labor force participation, wages and so on. The statement that the boomers are crisis-free got through life is simply not true for Germany.”

With fierce competition for available jobs, an ambitious and pragmatic generation emerged that was rather apolitical compared to the older 1968s or today’s Fridays for Future movement. Author Arntz – born in ’65 – believes, however, that it is often overlooked that this generation shouldered German unity and significantly advanced European unification. Young people often take this for granted.

Dealing with criticism from younger people

How do boomers react to their children’s criticism? “I don’t want to defend my generation for long against accusations of a certain carelessness in dealing with natural resources,” admits Werding. “But the progress in knowledge has of course only come slowly over time.” And yes, of course there are people in his generation who actually need to change their lifestyle but simply don’t feel like it. However, a look at the Greens’ top staff shows that there are also completely different types of boomers.

Debates about meat consumption, waste separation and travel habits are part of everyday life in many families. Werding, the economist, also has to listen to one thing or another at home. “I currently have the interesting experience that my children and my students are pretty much the same age, in their early 20s. And that’s where discussions arise from time to time.” He doesn’t want to create a generational conflict, but the fact is that both the students and his children sometimes have different priorities than he does. “I get a dirty look if I throw something in the wrong bin. And last year it was ours Youngest, who made sure the heating was turned off.”

Jochen Arntz thinks the younger generation’s criticism is okay, “because basically every generation rubs against the previous one.” Conversely, the Boomers would have also worked their magic on the 1968ers who were born in the 1940s, who in their eyes always knew everything better. “If there wasn’t this friction between generations, society would be standing still.”

Since statistical life expectancy has increased significantly, the baby boomers still have the chance to develop further. For example, they could use their work ethic in such a way that they don’t suddenly say goodbye to retirement by the millions, but rather continue to contribute to society through voluntary work. “Maybe they will be able to at least achieve some kind of retirement-work balance in their old age,” says Arntz.

And he sees another encouraging perspective: “If you look at all three generation projects together: the 1968ers, who renewed and opened up Germany socially and politically, those born around 1964, who shaped German unity and its integration into European unity and the following generation, which strives for an ecological and digital transformation, then these three generations together could have achieved something very meaningful.”