The front cover of today’s Evening Standard, and the story that goes with it, is devastating for anyone who cares about the future of our country.
Most of those in political circles know – and often discuss – the tragedy of youth unemployment. But considering the sheer scale of the problem and the fact that long term youth unemployment quite literally destroys the lives of many young adults, it should be a cause of national outrage. But for some reason it isn’t. Why the hell not?
There are some who will say that youth unemployment was high – and rising – under Labour. And they’d be right. While the economy was growing youth unemployment wasn’t adequately tackled. Like the growing gap between the richest and poorest attempts were made to deal with it, but never anything quite bold enough. That was short sighted, and what you might call “The Squeezed Youth” may never forgive us for it.
But with a Tory government committed to slash and burn, an economy that is shrinking, and stubbornly high unemployment figures, the crisis worsens by the day. There has been a 100% increase in young people claiming JSA for more than six months since May 2010. ONE. HUNDRED. PERCENT.
Unsurprising, when you consider the fate of the now defunct future jobs fund. It didn’t provide value for money. Giving young people a chance in life? Experience? A job?
Nah. Too expensive. It was cut to save £290 million.
How callous and unfeeling can you get?
And yet since then the response of the government to any question about youth unemployment is a mealy mouthed attempt to blame youth unemployment on the last government. The Tories claim they are cutting to save pain for future generations, well the next generation is suffering now – with teenagers paying the price for a crisis that began when they were taking their GCSEs. What benefit do they receive from the Treasury?
The Evening Standard also notes that Olympic boroughs like Newham and Tower Hamlets are amongst the hardest hit. Inspire a generation? You can toss that one in a cupboard with “we’re all in this together”.
And what is Labour’s answer to the youth unemployment emergency? We’d tax bankers to provide apprenticeships. It’s fine, but is it big enough for the task at hand, the crusade to create youth jobs that is needed? Almost certainly not. It’s timid at a time of national crisis, and with youth unemployment in some regions running at 25%, that’s exactly what this is.
Labour needs to come out and say that, despite spending restraints, jobs for young people must be a priority and that whatever funds are necessary to end the crisis will be found – not just because it’s good politics, or because it will save some young people from a life on the long term unemployment scrap heap, but also because it’s good economics. People with jobs spend money, which boosts the economy. People without jobs need state support which squeezes the Treasury.
So let’s take the rhetoric about “growth and jobs” and actually explain how we’ll create the hundreds of thousands of jobs for young people that are needed – now – to save the prospects of a generation and get the economy moving again.
Nevermind “Inspire a generation”, Britain needs to “Employ a generation”.
And that’s a national project worthy of the name, the Labour Party. Often it can seem that Labour lacks a defining project that explains what we’re for. At a time of epic youth unemployment – ending this crisis feels like exactly the kind of thing the Labour Party exists to do.
The clue is in the name.