It is said, that young people these days have it easy. Technology has changed the world forever. We can stay connected from the comfort of our own homes while playing addictive video games, and anyone who has played Football Manager can testify that it’s sometimes impossible to just spend half an hour on a game. But in other areas, life has been anything but easy for young people. The youth unemployment rate among 16-24-year-olds was 12.7 per cent from May to July 2023 — excluding those in full-time education. That amounts to some 370,000 people actively seeking work who are unable to find it.

Obstacles to Employment

For those living in rural areas, owning a car is one of the first prerequisites to finding and keeping a job. However, when it comes to insurance, you can expect to pay as much as £900 for your cover if you’re under 25. That’s almost double the average comprehensive cover for those aged 25 and over. The young indeed appear to be more accident-prone, with one in five new drivers crashing within a year of passing their test. Still, the fact remains that not being able to afford a mobile vehicle reduces a person’s chances of finding work. And don’t even get me started on rent.

If it is unwise to lower insurance premiums, how else can this problem be solved? One solution, of course, would be to improve public transport. In an ideal world, public transport would be so good that no one would need to commute by car, thereby easing congestion and lowering air pollution. Yet from April to June 2023, only 87.6 per cent of trains arrived on time (no more than 5-10 minutes late). If we compare this with Germany’s government-owned Deutsche Bahn, with 91 per cent of its trains arriving punctually, something clearly isn’t working. Whether renationalisation is the solution, remains debatable. The British Rail in the 1980s wasn’t exactly perfect either. What is clear, however, is that privatisation in its current form is not working.

The quality of service, however, is not the only problem. The UK has some of the highest domestic travel costs. An 80 km journey from a capital city like London to Oxford by train comes out with the third-highest return fees. A journey of around 263 miles from Berlin to Frankfurt could set you back as little as €35.90 if you are happy to get that specific train and book in advance. A journey of around 393 miles from London to Edinburgh (which takes roughly the same time), will cost around £80 or more, depending on your departure preferences. When public transport is hardly a money-saver, it’s no wonder that cars remain the better choice for longer journeys.

A Better Solution

The second solution to helping the young find work would be to introduce a youth employment scheme. Sometimes, as a young person, it can feel tough to find jobs on recruitment websites as you have to wade through pages of vacancies that you are not qualified for. So why not have one main website and specific youth-centred agencies for job hunting to make young people’s lives a little easier? From a business perspective, there is every reason to assume that business owners would be happy to advertise jobs specifically for younger people given the lower wage costs of hiring an unskilled person. If this could be done through one’s local MP office — perhaps via a noticeboard or online newsletter — suitable jobs would be better visible to young people and faster.

Alternatively, young people could perform manual jobs that are less attractive to locals and adults. Every year, thousands of visas are granted to foreign labourers to come and pick fruit during the summer months. There are an estimated 55,000 people needed for this task which could easily be solved by encouraging young people to take on such work over the summer holidays. Construction is another industry with potential for the youth. Getting young people involved in public works projects, such as building new train lines or helping to develop renewable energy sources, could give those who need it a sense of community and purpose — not to mention potentially enough to live on.

Investing in improving our infrastructure and giving young people jobs and transferable skills, is surely both prudent and too good an opportunity to waste.

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