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Question: How many Millennials does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: None – that’s what outsourcing is for. OK, so that’s a gross generalisation, but if statistics are to be believed, the joke is not that far from the truth.

A recent survey, by the British company YouGov, found that one in nine young Britons don’t know how to change a light bulb, and 35 per cent don’t know how to sew on a button. It gets worse – the Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI) recently published a guide on how to – wait for it – properly wash the dishes. But its introduction reveals its first mistake, to wit:

“Whether you’ve got a dishwasher or not, sometimes there’s no escaping the washing up.”

“Oh, no? Watch me!” cried a chorus of 10,000 men, aged 18-24.

Yes, it seems that what mothers have long suspected is true: boys are the worst at this.

Indeed, 18 per cent of men are so afraid of the washing machine, they’re wearing their underpants twice or more before washing them. Twice or more. Sorry. I just think such a gaping lack of hygiene and personal respect bears repeating.

And bless the British newspaper, The Guardian, because it has written its own guide to doing basic household tasks, including “how to make a bed”, little realising that it’s not ignorance stopping young people from learning about these household tasks, but rather the will to care.

“Australians in rental accommodation are less likely to be spending on renovations and repairs (generally the landlord’s responsibility), or even redecorating,” is how Michele Levine, chief executive of Roy Morgan Research puts it.

“When they do, the timing and decision-making process are very different, with longer-term tenants being more inclined to make home improvements. No doubt, feeling secure in their lease and established in their rental residence would play a role in this.”

And that’s just it. You need to actually own a house before you can be house proud. If young people aren’t galavanting about eating their avocado sandwiches, they’re usually renting or living at home, so the incentive is simply not there.

This still does not explain why so many kids these days don’t know how to, you know, do stuff.

Wait, that’s probably too harsh. Let me confess that there was a time when I did call a handyman to change two lightbulbs in my flat. It’s not that I didn’t know how, it’s that the ceilings were too high for me. Well, that and I couldn’t be bothered.

We are living in a fast-paced society, OK? And Georgie Walker, the marketing manager at Hire a Hubby, agrees with me.

“The type of customer [we see] has changed along with the general population,” she says of the Handyman franchise, which began in 1996. “These days more families and couples need to work full-time, so often the customer is time poor.”

We’re outsourcing everything from grocery shopping to baby sleeping, because we just don’t have the time, so why would we spend four hours working out whether we need to buy a bayonet or a screw-in style of bulb, going back and forth to Bunnings, when a quick email to an expert will ensure the job is done and done properly?

“Life has changed,” Trisha Schofield, director of the GHI told The Guardian. “But it’s sad that we’re losing all those skills. They can save us money, are often quicker to do than farming it out, more satisfying and relaxing.”

If she thinks changing a light bulb is relaxing she’s obviously never gone on a Netflix binge.

There’s also this. In the late 1980s, when my father was doing all the handy jobs in our house, from fixing the toilet to rewiring the TV antenna, he was letting fly a stream of expletives so colourful I can’t even hint at them here and I’m sure I’m not alone.

So, “satisfying” and “relaxing” are not how many people would describe handy work. Also, men no longer feel pressured to prove their masculinity through handy work and shouldn’t that be celebrated?

The downside of this, of course, is that women are doing more of the groundwork. “You’d be surprised how often I hear that women have waited and waited for their partner to fix something, and he hasn’t, so they call me,” says one handyman, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Or the guy’s had a crack at it, and he’s made it worse.”

But before we go on blaming the youth and the men, we should remember that there’s one demographic that actually needs to outsource.

“Many repairs seem simple on the surface,” Walker says. “But changing a globe or smoke alarm batteries is a classic case where, for the elderly, this can be a difficult job.”

A recent survey from Oneflare – an Australian online marketplace that connects customers and businesses – found that the most popular household service that Australian’s outsource was cleaning, followed by landscaping and carpentry/handiwork. 

The online marketplace, partially owned by Domain Group, also found that the majority of those surveyed didn’t feel compelled to supervise the job and were happy to leave it to the professionals.

Written by Natalie Reilly. Republished with permission of Domain.com.au.

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