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Budget 2016 Signals a More Uncertain Future for Young People

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Growth revised down. Wages revised down. Productivity revised down.

The message from the Budget is that the future looks worse. So it was audacious of the Chancellor to claim that this was a budget for the next generation. Young people are clearly facing a more uncertain future.

Osborne's 'long-term economic plan' is not working. Missed targets and downgraded forecasts have become a regular feature of his budgets. The deficit was supposed to be gone by now, and the economy today was supposed to be £150billion larger than it is.

Real earnings next year are set to grow even slower than he'd previously announced. This will add to the pain caused by what has already been the longest wage squeeze in UK recorded history. And the Chancellor has had to admit again that government debt has gone up more than he expected it to.

What the next generation needs is a strong economy with more decent jobs. But instead they're faced with weak wage growth and growing insecurity at work. Zero-hours contracts are up 15% from last year, and 3.1million UK workers are underemployed - all of which is hitting young people particularly hard as they start to enter the workforce.

Wednesday's income tax changes were clearly not made with young people in mind. The big gainers will be higher earners, who are more likely to be older.

The Chancellor announced plans for new ISAs to help young people save for a home, but it's more telling that his higher minimum age won't actually include 21-to-24 year olds. And young workers will find their cash is all gone on soaring rents and student loan repayments before they can think about putting anything into an ISA.

There is no let-up in the Chancellor's squeeze on public spending. There will be £3.5billion of additional cuts to departmental budgets by 2020 - excluding those protected areas of education, health, international aid and defence. And this is on top of cuts since 2010 that have already pushed down departmental budgets by a third in real terms. Young people will find that many of the community services that aided the quality of life of their parents and grandparents are gone.

A fair budget for the next generation would have better protected their public services. And it would have delivered far more investment in infrastructure, jobs and homes.

While some infrastructure projects were included today, the overall infrastructure spend for the current parliament is no higher than before - the funds have just be shifted around. It still adds up to far less than is needed for strong growth and higher productivity across the UK for the long-term. And it is a missed opportunity for creating high quality apprenticeships on infrastructure construction projects.

There are still over 600,000 young people aged 16 to 24 who are out of work. One of Osborne's first acts as Chancellor was to scrap job guarantees for unemployed young people. If he wanted to improve the life chances of young people - especially those who most need a break - he would have brought job guarantees back for them today.

We are still building far too few homes of all types of tenure, and the budget did nothing to boost house building. Young people know that a little help with saving is not nearly enough if there's simply not enough genuinely affordable homes for their generation.

The truth is that young people have been little more than rhetorical window dressing for Osborne's budget. There was nothing on Wednesday that will make the tangible improvements to their life chances that they need. They still look set to be the first generation to have worse living standards than their parents.

Frances O'Grady is the TUC General Secretary

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