04/12/2013 11:22 GMT | Updated 04/12/2013 12:11 GMT

Autumn Statement 2013: What Will George Osborne Do For Young People?


Michael left university with a 2:1 in economics, backed up by a glittering array of A levels and GCSE results. The 21-year old, however, has since spent more than a year looking for work in vain, as applications for graduate jobs go unanswered.

"It's incredibly depressing. I have spent one hell of a lot of money for what is looking like not very much given my qualifications," he told the Huffington Post UK.

Even though George Osborne is likely to hail the success of fiscal austerity in Thursday's Autumn Statement, the number in Michael's situation is vast - around one million young people are not in work. Just over quarter of a million (288,000) have been out of work for over a year, like Michael.

Michael is so afraid of the social stigma from speaking out about his employment struggle, that his name has been changed for the purposes of this article. Many other young people refused to speak openly about their unemployment struggles due to similar fears.

A 2011 study looking at people in Bradford found that "unemployment negatively affected the participants’ mental well-being primarily through six experiences: the financial strain caused by income loss, difficulty in finding a job due to the stronger market competition, loss of time structure in the day, loss of social role, anger and frustration for one’s situation; and stigma attached to being unemployed".

One person surveyed for the research, said: "It's just really difficult from when you've worked for a lot of years and then suddenly, you know, you're out of work again. I'm too experienced."

Left adrift after university, economics graduate Michael saw no other option but to study for an extra degree - in International Relations - in a bid to make himself more attractive to employers. This has yet to bear fruit as he struggles to find a job while finishing his studies.

"I'm trying to do well in my studies but I'm finding it hard to balance. Writing out applications every evening is getting more and more depressing, and it may well become a reality."

"These applications take hours to complete, it doesn't make for a fun evening but has been my life for far too long," he says.

"To get to the final stage of an interview can take months and it's absolutely heartbreaking to be rejected after all the time and effort. I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere."

Michael has not given up, but he admits not finding work has created "a whole level of stress and worry I shouldn't have to be dealing with".

He feels the government is failing to help young people in his situation, lamenting: "I don't feel there is any support for us. I've received no advice with regard to graduate jobs, as really the fact that I had a degree seemed irrelevant."

"This year has been tough. I'm having to be incredibly frugal. I've sold some of my own clothes on eBay to raise money. Without my parents, I'd be out on the streets.

"To get by this year, I have emptied my savings account of the several thousand pounds I built up and have had to borrow money from my parents. I know they're not keen to do so for too long."

Michael knows banks provide extra help like "career development loans" but he isn't rushing to use them. "They do not cover tuition fees and accommodation - and that's before you even begin to think about food!"

Critics of the coalition's handling of youth unemployment point to the failures of the Youth Contract and the abolition of Labour's Future Jobs Fund - as well as the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the trebling of tuition fees.

However, chancellor George Osborne is already said to be planning to give a boost to young people by slashing national insurance payments for employers who take on young unemployed people.

Scrapping national insurance for employers, which the Tories branded a "jobs tax" before the 2010 General Election, could cut firms' wage bills for each young worker by £520 a year

As a senior Treasury source told the Sun: “George will do something to keep on tackling youth unemployment in the Autumn Statement. He recognises this is an important priority.”

Business groups have welcomed such a move, with an Institute for Directors spokesman telling HuffPostUK: "National Insurance increases the cost of employing people. Businesses would be more likely to take on extra staff if they had to pay less tax to do so."

Michael isn't convinced that such a move would be enough, saying: "Being limited to those under-21, its effects are of course restricted further. It certainly doesn't affect those coming out of university, and as they encourage more to stay on in education, and it is soon to be a legal requirement to stay in education until 17 and later 18, then it is targeting a very small subset of the unemployed youth."

Does the UK now have its own 'lost generation' of young people, jobless, hopeless and disillusioned? Michael, after all, is just one of the one million young unemployed people, Osborne has to try and help find work with his Autumn Statement on Thursday.