Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Tories Playing the Generation Game

A report by the TUC today confirmed that the number of 18-24 year olds claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance for over six months “has increased in 142 local authorities across the UK since last year, compared to just 78 where it has fallen”.

17% of young people are now in receipt of JSA – twice the national average – with hundreds of thousands more defining themselves as students, despite having no confirmed place at university in the autumn. Without robust and proactive employment schemes, we risk losing a whole generation of young people to a life-time of unemployment and economic inactivity.

The increase in youth unemployment is at best the result of naive ConDem policy and at worst seen as a price worth paying. All government policy thus far seems intent on compounding the situation of jobless young people: increasing the retirement age, reassessing people on Incapacity Benefit, expecting single mothers to return to work earlier, scrapping the Future Jobs Fund, strangulating Connexions, mass cuts in the public sector and inevitable redundancies in the private sector. All these contrive to push young people further and further away from the labour market.

The Office for National Statistics recently compared the latest recession to the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s. According to ONS “the labour market has been more resilient this time round” and, whilst the recession has been “remarkable for its depth and duration, the loss of employment was relatively low”. This may be true but the stagnation of job creation has intensified the plight of the long-term unemployed and, by extension, young people. This is backed up by recent figures which show that, although the overall numbers of people claiming JSA has decreased, the number of long-term unemployed has hit its highest level since 1997. For those with experience and qualifications it may be relatively easy to get a job, but for those with little experience (chiefly by virtue of the fact they’ve been on the planet for a shorter period of time) it’s never been harder.

The Future Jobs Fund and Young Persons’ Guarantee were, by definition, counter-recessionary measures. As experienced workers were made redundant, they were first in line for new vacancies. This increasingly reduced the chances of a young person finding work. The Chartered Institute of Personal Development predicts that 8% of the population will be affected by public sector cuts alone. This will create a vast pool of experienced workers ready to snap up all the new private sector jobs which the Tories are promising us. Young people – without something like the £1.2billion Future Jobs Fund – will find themselves last in line for jobs but first in the firing line for the government’s punitive benefits system. Youth unemployment cannot be solved by draconian measures, it needs intensive and resourced support backed up by guaranteed jobs. Without it, the Tories will create a lost generation. But maybe that’s a price worth paying?

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