Harriet Walker: Young women aren't lazy – we'll only be able to retire when we're dead

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The Independent Online

Economic unrest sets everyone against each other.

It's dog eat dog at the moment or, if you're Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones, it's bitch eat bitch. Ms Jones wrote this week that young women have it easy and have no work ethic, and that these are the reasons so many of them are unemployed. She cited maternity leave, vacations and "out of office" emails as evidence of our deep-seated inertia.

In times as horrid as these, offices have become war zones. We "youngsters" (and I presume she means anyone under 40) are used to getting an ear-bashing from the olds, simply because we've grown up surrounded by snazzy touch screens and trainers with wheels on. We know life is nicer now thanks to frappuccinos and Pizza Express, but we'd appreciate the time and money to enjoy it – time and money that the older ranks have in spades, I might provocatively add.

We're the generation of women who won't have children until we're established at work. We won't retire until we're dead. We won't have a lengthy spell of entertaining grandchildren in our bungalows, because we'll die at our desks before they're even born. What harm is there, then, in taking a few weeks here and there to go to the beach? Or to switch off our constantly jangling electronic equipment for a few hours over the weekend? I speak hypothetically, of course, because I am too big a neurotic and workaholic ever to switch my email or phone – let alone my brain – off. And so are most of the young women I know.

This is our great strength: we may be the packhorses that pay everyone else's pensions, but we're the most competent and balanced generation yet. There's no such thing as work-life equilibrium; you can't have it all if you approach it like that. What we've done is integrate work fully into our lives, rather than shuffle back and forth between the two. We're on call constantly for drudgery, duty or domestic bliss, so two weeks in Marbella or a year off to look after a tiny person won't make a jot of difference.

What we've also done to some extent is pick our battles and prioritise what work we do at the weekends or in the small hours as we lie awake totting up our debts. We know who's important and what can wait. Perhaps that's why Liz Jones got all those out-of-office emails.