IS THE ECONOMY A YOUNG PERSON’S GREATEST FOE?

Life has never been easy for anyone, especially these past few years.

We have had problems ranging from Brexit and economic crashes, all the way to Covid-19.

But the world keeps moving forward, and times are changing. And in this perpetual cycle of change, young people are getting left behind in an economy that discriminates and forgets.


No Jobs, No Homes, No Education

In the last fifteen months, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a disparity when it comes to young people and the rest of the labour force.

When it comes to employment, young people face an ever-growing issue. Unemployment has been rising since 2005 and is predicted to cost the economy 28 billion in the next decade. Unless changes are made to help almost 1 million unemployed young people find secure jobs, the UK faces struggling with a ‘lost generation’.

In February-April 2021, unemployment for 16-24-year-olds was 13.2 per cent. This is higher than it was back at the peak of the pandemic in March when it stood at 12.5 per cent. Additionally, the number of economically inactive young people lies at 41.3 per cent, which is the highest it has been since records began in 1992. Finally, 20 per cent of all furloughed workers were aged 24 and under.

Importantly, the statistics show that young people are not in employment. And neither are they actively looking for it. Instead, a large proportion of young people (80 per cent) are in full-time education. Several factors contribute to this trend. Those who are under 18  now need to meet certain qualifications or age requirements before they can even be considered for the most basic jobs. The fact that so many young people have been furloughed also sends the message that they are disposable to the economy. Once the government’s furlough scheme ends in September, we will probably be seeing an even further dip in youth employment.

When looking at housing, the picture looks even bleaker.

Currently, 35 per cent of 25-34-year-olds own a house — down from 55 per cent in 1998. Many young people are also moving out later, with many not flying the nest until their 30s, which is approximately 5-10 years later than our parents. And, despite housing prices having risen by 137 per cent, wages amongst the young have only increased by 19 per cent in the same period.

Due to a combination of financial and private reasons, young people simply cannot afford their own house at the same rate or time as their parents did. Young people today have to start saving up sooner and for longer, resulting in a lengthier period before they are able to own property. The ‘right to buy’ simply may not exist anymore, appearing to be more of a luxury of the past.

If we consider education, the statistics clearly show where the government’s priorities lie.

In sixth forms, funding has been cut by 25 per cent. In schools, this is even worse, with per-pupil funding being cut from 30 per cent to 16 per cent between 2000-2020. The cuts have affected a staggering 83 per cent of all UK schools.

The picture suggests a government that does not see education as a priority for spending. This is both confounding and concerning, given that pupils who access higher and further education tend to earn more and have more opportunities.

The picture is once more a bleak one. Schools are being strangled ever tighter by the state to provide the exact same high-quality education our parents had, but without the same money or resources to provide it.

Why Young People are Struggling

When looking at government spending from 2020, pensions and welfare benefits took up the largest proportion, at £285 billion. Older generations, who often no longer work and rely on government money to survive, get the biggest chunk of taxes and money.

When we flip the picture and look at other spending sectors that young people typically need, the image changes. Housing and employment stand at £62 billion, which is less than half of the pensions and social welfare spending. Even education, which came third in expenditure, suffered losses. £116 billion was spent, but with many schools suffering a yearly loss of £15 million, a total of £365 billion would be needed to cover the deficit. At the moment, yearly government spending covers only one-third of this amount.

The point of the matter is that young people lack key opportunities their parents had, and the statistics support this. When our parents were young, Margaret Thatcher implemented the ‘right to buy’ scheme, allowing many young people to finally afford housing. Our parents were allowed to ‘train on the job’ and rise up the social ladder through hard work. From the late 1870s, the education system was constantly being changed and improved in order to make it fairer and meet modern standards within society.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, none of this is happening. Since the last large-scale Education Reform Act back in 1997, the education system remains largely unchanged, yet society has changed drastically since then.

If we take rented accommodation, though this continues to be popular amongst the young, prices have become eye-watering and contribute to many people not being able to afford mortgages later on in life. Despite Rishi Sunak’s 5 per cent deposit scheme for mortgages, housing prices continue to be inflated and quite unattainable for the majority.

Adding to the difficulties, since the pandemic started, many young people simply cannot work at all due to tougher health and safety regulations. The government keeps tightening restrictions on who can work where, which means that young people, especially those under 18, have been finding it increasingly difficult to secure any kind of paid work at all.

Building Back Better

What is clear is that younger generations are simply not at the forefront of the government’s mind — which has more pressing concerns.

But young people shouldn’t have to settle for less. We should not have to settle for less work, lower quality of education and no homes. After all, if our parents had these things, why shouldn’t we?

We may be in for tough times ahead, but if Boris Johnson wants to really ‘build back better’ then we need reliable education, we need work opportunities and skilled workers from a range of sectors, and we need affordable housing.

In a society that is expanding, changing and moving forward, it’s time to end the discrimination and build back better for everyone, for good.