Youth unemployment is not far short of a crisis

(c) NguyenDai

Henry Fowler

As youth unemployment continues to rise in Britain, currently estimated at one in five 16 to 24 year-olds, 965,000 of them currently out of work,  it is clear that this government does not have a coherent strategy on how to deal with this growing trend. This is not just a problem for graduates but seems endemic amongst the future generations.

However, as I look back at the recent history of youth unemployment a particular story seems to be the trend in a particular party’s attitude when in government. A period of economic hardship is endured, youth unemployment rises and a certain governing party seems to completely misunderstand the issues involved. Their response is usually some kind of scheme. Have you guessed who the party in government is in these times? That’s right, it is the Conservatives.

The history of all mainstream parties when dealing with the concept of youth unemployment has been to attach a ‘Frankenstein’ scheme, which can introduce near-slave labour, benefiting those who employ these new-founded armies of young unemployed, and little for those who were part of the schemes. This was certainly the criticism directed at the Youth Training Scheme of Margret Thatcher’s administration.

Moreover, this government seems as confused as the previous ones in dealing with youth unemployment. Iain Duncan Smith’s speech in Madrid this month was another shameful appeal to right wing populism, blaming immigration for the structural issues of unemployment within Britain. This is yet another example of this government’s continual appeal to right wing populism in blaming immigration for the complicated issues within our society.

This leaves the left with an enormous opportunity in the wake of the rights continuous bewilderment around this issue. Investment tends to be the answer for these kinds of issues. As in the USA, where since the recession enormous investment in summer work programmes have encouraged private and public sector to employ more young people.

However, the lack of internships within the UK and the need for more is all too clear. As the recession deepens for tradespeople in particular, the thought of taking on more apprentices including the payment of their travel and/or expense seems a tad off-putting. The real issue in this is the role of the state.

Many tradespeople have advocated that more apprentices could be taken on if more government funding came to pay for their tools and travel as oppose to the employer becoming burdened with the bill. This in turn would lead to apprentices earning more as the employer can afford to increase wages as the state takes the financial burden of other elements that the employer has historically taken.

Furthermore, with the recent increase in tuition fees and the estimated increasing amounts of unemployed graduates looking for work, or those who have undertaken unpaid voluntary work or internships in order to secure paid employment, it seems clear that for young people the future looks bleak, not just in Britain but also throughout Europe (the exception being the Netherlands).

The left has to advocate a need for investment in more places for apprentices by taking away financial burdens for smaller size employers to encourage them to offer more apprenticeships. Furthermore, insisting on paid internships to allow graduates to gain vital experience and earn at the same time, ending the current slave labour benefitted by many companies in the UK.

As a society, we need to ensure that tuition fees of the magnitude we are seeing now are not for forever, emphasising that education is important and not just a business, unaffordable for the majority. All these elements put together can improve the future for young people. This would stop the hollow insult of past and present generations as they exclaim that as a young person “you are the future.” My reply is “yes, if only I had one!”


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