I spoke recently to a young man who had applied, unsuccessfully, for 32 jobs since leaving college. Many of these, of course, were jobs he was forced to apply for, to fulfil his Claimant Commitment, whether or not he had relevant experience or wanted the job, otherwise his benefits would have been sanctioned.
It made me think hard about the impact on the mental health of young people of so much rejection and disappointment so early in life. Coupled with the desperate lack of affordable housing and the scandal of low-wage and zero hours contracts, it is not surprising that levels of mental ill-health and suicide are rising among young people.
In 2013, the government promised to increase the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists to deal with the increase of mental ill-health among young people.
Surprise! Since 2013 the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists has fallen by 7%.
Just one important example of how society, and the current government, are failing young people.
Most of the 900,000 zero-hours contracts currently on offer by British employers are worked by young people and women. This explains, of course, why membership of trades unions in Britain is falling and why trade union membership is dominated by older workers. Young people are often terrified to claim their rights at work, for fear of losing even the precarious employment they have.
Socially Progressive Policies
In Britain it is legal to pay 18-year old workers less than their 25-year old counterparts, and legal to pay 16-year olds even less. Why? There are laws to prevent wage discrimination against women, so why is it not the same for young people?
Those of us born in the two decades after the Second World War benefited from socially progressive policies which were determined to bring about a fairer society by redistributing wealth, income and creating opportunities and benefits for all.
We have watched these being slowly unpicked, as privatisation of essential services, an end to council house building, massive fees for higher education have conspired to defeat that vision of equality
And so we are left to fight over the crumbs of society’s cake. The media try to divide young and old, by suggesting that “baby boomers” have gobbled up everything, leaving nothing for today’s youth! This is, of course, total nonsense, and only works if you fall for the propaganda that working class people are only entitled to a slice, instead of fair share of the whole cake! It is successive government policies (and I’m not excluding some previous Labour governments) who have destroyed the rights and expectations of young people.
Faith and Hope in Corbyn-led Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has rightly recognised a commitment to improving the lives of young people, by promising to end tuition fees and zero hours contracts and introduce equal pay, along with full employment rights from the first day of starting a job, instead of waiting for two years, as at present. The minimum wage will be raised to at least £10 an hour by 2020 and the scandal of unpaid “internships” will end. Controls on private rents and a council-house building programme will end the blight of homelessness.
This will happen when the Labour Party forms the next government. Young people have already shown their faith and hope in a Corbyn-led Labour Party. Let’s encourage even more young people to join the Labour Party and to join a trade union : the twin weapons in the fight for a fairer society for all!