During the Conservative Party Conference this week, Government Minister Matthew Hancock stated that under 25s "are not as productive, on average" and so won't have the minimum wage rates raised for them.
Speaking as an under 25 year old, I find the claim to be both infuriating and very disappointing; I am genuinely shocked that people still hold this view of young people in society today. Even if we are not productive in the economic sense, it doesn't mean we are not valuable.
Mr Hancock, states under 25s aren't productive enough to warrant higher pay for the work they do, so is he saying that the millions of 18-24 year old workers aren't doing valuable things? That seems like a very unlikely claim for somebody to make, as the under 25 workforce, like any other age group's workforce, is an incredibly large and varied group, branching out over so many different fields, with individual humans - not just statistics - filling these jobs, generally whilst juggling other responsibilities too.
So where is Mr Hancock finding examples to fuel this claim that "on average" we aren't making the same contributions as over 25's? The only place I can think of is the media, where young people are very often shown in negative ways. I'm sure if I asked you to think of media coverage concerning young people, many of you would come up with stories regarding binge drinking, benefit fraud, other crime etc. as that is generally what is displayed. So if we went by those young people shown, and assumed that they are an accurate representation of the millions of 18-24 year olds in Britain, then the average workforce of the under 25s really wouldn't be anywhere near as productive as our older peers'. But that portrayal isn't accurate at all.
There was another Huffington Post article responding to Mr Hancock's claims which highlighted 12 under 25s who have succeeded in various fields, and it is brilliant. However since Mr Hancock, and those who share his views, have been putting a firm emphasis on the fact that the policy is based on the "average", I thought it would be best to highlight some working and middle-class people I know or have met that make up the majority of the real average under 25s.
For example, earlier in the week, in my role at the Young Women's Trust (www.youngwomenstrust.org), I visited the job centre with a colleague where we spoke to young women about their experiences. Most women we spoke with really didn't mind what type of job they got as they were willing to learn and acquire new skills whilst working which would be beneficial further in the future. Many of them had other responsibilities e.g. they had children or were caring for another relative. Some were in college or university, or were planning on going if and when they could afford to. But all women were doing their best to keep pushing forward, even with all the obstacles in their paths, so that they could achieve what they set out to do. The determination I saw and heard from them is definitely something that will enable them to make value contributions to society as well as become 'productive' individuals. There may be a learning curve for some young people going into our first jobs, but that doesn't mean we won't pick up new skills quickly and work hard to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
My friends all have the same determination as the ladies I mentioned above, whether they are young mums who have to also juggle employment and studying; police officers who are finding it more and more difficult to spend time with friends and family because they put their all into their job; teaching assistants who go above and beyond for every child they work with... It doesn't matter how different the jobs, or how different the person, their dedication and drive are common threads that I sincerely admire in every single one of them, and I find it deeply insulting that people underestimate the effort they put in and the results they get back simply because they are young.
I've been told by many people that I have the same determination. I battle with health issues (physical and mental) and I'm the legal carer of my grandma but I still commute to London 3 days a week and put all my energy into my job with the Young Women's Trust. My supervisor tells me that she's really grateful to have me and that they wouldn't be able to get certain things done without the work I do. I found it hard to believe that I was doing something worth being proud of by overcoming my hurdles, simply because my peers around me are all doing the same. But I realise now that that doesn't mean that my achievements are any less impressive, it means that the people around me who are all awe-inspiring too.
I can honestly tell you that for every under 25 year old who isn't making the best choices with their lives right now, there are 20 people like the ones I've referenced who are. We may not be as interesting or as visible (mostly because we prefer an early night after a long day at work) but we are the real "average".