A new report, State of the Nation, from the independent think tank British Future, features some interesting anecdotes about the way in which opportunities for young people have changed.

One section of the report, Age versus youth?, has been written by Binita Mehta, an intern at British Future, who interviewed people in their 60s, 70s and 80s to compare the opportunities and lifestyles they had as young people with the situation for young people today.

What comes across quite starkly is that, although society in the early to mid 20th century was less affluent and young people were expected to take on greater responsbilities at an earlier age – people were married and had families earlier, credit was severely limited, food was rationed – there was a far higher availability of jobs and a getting a degree almost guaranteed getting a higher paid or professional job.

The decline of manufacturing (and the automation of much that remains), the collapse of high street retailers, a lack of opportunities for work experience, restricted access to the housing market and an education system that fails to adequately prepare young people for the world of work, have all contributed to the enormous difficulties they now face.

To bring about any meaningful change in the prospects for young people isn’t something that can be achieved quickly – current economic circumstances aren’t likely to lead to a significant increase in jobs any time soon – but we should be trying to improve education for young people, to better prepare them for the world of work.

Since those interviewed in the report were beginning their adult lives, society has changed beyond recognition. So too have the skills and abilities required in the workplace, yet our education system hasn’t kept pace with those changes. If we want to improve the situation for this generation, that is exactly where we should start.