Young people in the UK have suffered at the hands of all of the main political parties for years. The introduction and increase in tuition fees has targeted students, lack of training, apprenticeships and an inadequate national minimum wage has targeted those who are defined as NEETS (not in employment, education or training). Youth bashing as the term has been coined represents the political establishment’s policy, which effectively leaves young people at a disadvantage.
The next attack upon the youth of this country has come from Ed Milliband. His policy of replacing Job Seeker’s Allowance will mean that around 100,000 18-21 year-olds will lose their out-of-work benefit. Why? Well it would seem that Ed Miliband has to show that he can reform the welfare system and spend less money. This has resulted in the replacing of JSA for a new ‘youth allowance’, Mr Miliband said; “Britain’s young people who do not have the skills they need for work should be in training, not on benefits.”
This move will undoubtedly be supported by the older generations of the electorate who feel that they have been paying into a welfare system that has not been benefiting them when they most need it. A YouGov poll for the Institute for Public Policy Research found that 78 percent of people believe that the welfare system is failing to reward those who have contributed to it.
Getting young people into work by offering training schemes, apprenticeships or internships rather than simply allowing them to go on the ‘dole’ is good, if it leads to employment. Labour claims the move would save at least £65m a year in lower benefit payments and much more in the long run, because a “Neet” costs the Government more than £2,000 a year for the rest of their working lives. So getting young people into training and off the dole and saving money to balance the books, this is a policy which would attract those young people who are in need of a job and those older people who see Labour as a party who merely spend, spend, spend, rather than save. What Mr Miliband has failed to divulge however is what these schemes will look like. What kind of training can a young person receive to then be put to work in an economy of predominately public services regardless of the fact that these jobs are scarce in the first place?
What seems to be forgotten is the fact that these 18-21 year-olds are part of the electorate as well. Their votes count when it comes to winning an election as the Lib Dems know far too well since their spectacular u-turn on the subject of tuition fees when entering into coalition with the Conservatives – something that has left them as the most hated party amongst students and young people. As easy as it is to understand that parties these days are catch-all parties, taking pot shots at younger people to get the older voters on side, which is electoral neglect that will not be forgotten by the young- especially as they ultimately are the future of this country.
A much better idea for the main parties to be exploring is the fact that State-run education does not teach young people how the world really works. Young people are not taught how to manage their finances, participate in politics, at both local and regional levels, nor are they taught how best to get a job if they decide that carrying on with education is not a route for them.
What is it that MPs think when creating youth bashing policies? Surely they must understand that these types of policies will only enrage young people even more; there is already a considerable amount of young people who are disillusioned with politics in this country. Many young people see stereotypically white old men sitting in Parliament creating policies, and using political jargon, which will impact them in a way they do not fully understand, and will never understand because it is not explained to them in terms that they can comprehend.
Penalising those who do not have Level 3 education qualifications (equivalent to A-Levels) does not automatically mean that these people are going to become burdens upon society and take up a life of benefits. However neither are they likely to want to take up opportunities where they are being used as forced labour, working for free stacking shelves in a government scheme which is supposed to simply decrease the amount of youth unemployment. This is the same for a young person on benefits looking for a job, they are far more likely to carry on looking for a job which pays rather than participate in a scheme which isn’t going to help them or pay them.
The government of a country is supposed to provide equal opportunities to all of its citizens; therefore it needs to start concentrating on expanding the horizons of its younger generation. It should not be doing this by being restrictive towards the younger population but neither should it be giving away benefits to people who do not look for a job. It needs to be providing jobs. Yes training and apprenticeships are needed to equip people with the necessary skills, however if there are no jobs at the end of the line, what incentive is there to take up the training in the first place? It is absurd that the state will sponsor unpaid shelf-stacking but not a placement in a charity office. The Government would do better to spend money on job creation aimed at younger people rather than creating new benefits for them.
If Labour or indeed any of the political parties do not actively seek to resolve the issues of youth unemployment with real and noticeable actions, they could be in real trouble when it comes to winning over the youth vote. It may seem unorthodox to say this but in the end, the older generations will die and the country will be left with a generation who see government as a hindrance rather than a catalyst for personal self-development. If young people become even more disillusioned now, they may pack in voting altogether.