Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Diane Abbott

GET UPDATES FROM Diane Abbott
 

A Whole Generation May be Doomed to a Lifetime on the Fringes of the Job Market

Posted: 16/11/2011 22:00

It seems as if a whole generation of young people is going to pay the price of this government's economic policies.

Yesterday's figures for youth unemployment were truly shocking. At over a million, youth unemployment is the highest that it has ever been.

In Hackney alone, since January there has been a 80.6% rise in young people on the dole for over six months. These figures are not just a challenge for national politicians, they are a personal tragedy for each and every young person affected.

And although unemployment is difficult at any age, for young people it is particularly problematic.

All the evidence is that, for young men and women who leave college or university and cannot get a job, their future prospects are bleak. For every year they go without a job, their prospects of getting one get worse and they run the risk of long-term unemployment.

A whole generation may be doomed to a lifetime on the fringes of the job market.

The government talks about apprenticeships and mentoring. But the brutal fact is that the jobs are not there. Ministers want older workers to work on past 65. This in itself means there are fewer opportunities for younger people.

But the cuts in the public sector are slashing jobs which the private sector cannot replace. Neo-liberal economic theory says that if you slash the public sector the private sector will grow.

In reality cuts in the public sector also affect private sector jobs in areas like building and construction, that depend on public sector contracts for schools etc.

And public sector cuts also shrink opportunity in private sector service industries like retail and restaurants, that rely on public sector workers with money to spend.

And if the situation is bad for young people in general, it is even worse for young people in the inner city, and for black and minority young men.

This is partly because the public sector cuts are hitting the most multicultural inner city areas in Britain hardest.

BME young people have always had higher unemployment levels than white young people with exactly the same qualifications. Almost half of black people aged between 16 and 24 are unemployed, compared with 20% of white people of the same age.

So a collapse in youth employment, which is tragic for young people in general, is a disaster for BME youth.

These youth employment figures are a particular betrayal, because they largely represent young people with qualifications who are looking for a job.

In areas like Hackney, thousands of disaffected young people with no qualifications do not even bother to register as unemployed. They are another and distinct problem. But it is notably cruel for this government to tell young people who have worked hard and studied (and often piled up considerable debt) that there are no jobs for them.

George Osborne is doggedly pursuing policies designed to appease bankers and the bond markets. But he is ignoring the need to grow the economy and provide jobs for our people. He has to be prepared to rethink his policies. Otherwise the disturbances this summer may be only a foretaste of what is to come from a generation this government seems to have abandoned.

 

Follow Diane Abbott on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hackneyabbott