Young, Gifted and Unemployed

It would be unfair of me not to admit a vested interest here. I am one of the roughly 943 000 young people (16-24 year olds) in this country who doesn’t have a job and it makes me feel a little on edge.

The situation in which I find myself, newly graduated and without a job, is no longer a rare exception but, it seems, it is becoming the norm. I would be rather bending the truth to say that I have been applying for jobs for months or, in fact, that I am struggling to get by. I am lucky enough to have been employed for six months before government cuts led to my redundancy and I now have the fortune to be living rent free with my parents. Not every young person is quite so lucky.

The situation across Europe for young people is dire. In Germany the rate of youth unemployment is 8.5%, in Britain it’s very nearly 20% and, most worryingly, in Spain the rate is 42%. There are millions of young people across the continent who are seeing their education slashed, their services cut dramatically and, if they do find work, the prospect of retirement is being pushed further and further away. It is no wonder that, according to The Prince’s Trust,  half of those unemployed experience problems such as self-harm and insomnia. Young People, who this week will almost certainly witness the destruction of The Educational Maintenance Allowance are facing a myriad of problems that are set to get worse this year.

A Student Protests Againsts the Scrapping of EMA. Courtesy of Stuart Neyton

David Blanchflower, in his column in The New Statesmen, notes that government initiatives which they say will help youth unemployment are set to fail because there simply aren’t enough jobs:

“The work programme it is about to launch is doomed to fail, as there are no jobs around, even if the government wants to pretend that there are. There are five unemployed people for every vacancy”

For a government that has promised to ensure that unemployment will fall throughout this parliament and that they will break cycles of long term joblessness the coalition are sure going about this a strange way. Young people leaving school, who are now less likely to go on to college without EMA and surely less likely to go to university if they are to pay £6000 a year or more, are bound to end up looking for a job alongside all of those who have graduated from university and are job searching. What we are left with is a situation where school and university graduates are in hot competition with each other for jobs that simply don’t exist.

Add to this the chronic housing shortage, overpriced rent, more years working and a collapsing welfare state and you have what Shiv Malik describes in his excellent book as a ‘Jilted Generation’.

So if you think you’re the only one who’s unemployed, struggling with housing and angry, you can rest assured that you are not alone.

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There are protests happening this month up and down the country this month. Check out NCAFC for more info.

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