If our youth don’t thrive neither will the UK’s economy

4 November 2015

A report from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission this week talks of the “worst ever decline in living standards for young people under 34”. Young people were particularly hard hit by the recession and things are recovering for them more slowly. A “perfect storm” of policies are impacting adversely on young people, including: a trebling of tuition fees leading to massive personal debt; the abolition of grants for poorer students and Housing Benefit for young people; out of reach housing prices and scarce social housing; youth services that have been slashed; a continuingly high youth unemployment and NEET rate (still over a million) and many young people in low-skilled jobs on precarious contracts. However, youth unemployment has fallen by half a million since its peak and continues to fall but the most disadvantaged still do poorly in particular the lowest qualified, disabled young people and young carers. White boys born in to poverty fare particularly badly with just 28.3% achieving five A-C grades at GCSE in 2012-13.

In real monetary terms the deepening poverty of young people means that between 2008 and 2013 those aged 16-24 lost 60p per hour putting average pay at £6.70 and the 25-34 year olds lost £1.40 dropping wages to £10.60 per hour. For the first time in generations our children will be worse off than we are. But they will be supporting an increasingly elderly population too. The Office of National Statistics reports this week that in 2040 one in 12 Britons will be over 80 years old. The pressures on health and care services for the elderly will rise steeply. We must have a prosperous, skilled and engaged work force financing this support. This means that addressing the youth inequality gap now is vital.

Young people must engage, find their voice and speak up for themselves. All political parties need to put youth policy at the centre of their thinking and champion the rights and expectations of young people because if our young people don’t feel they have a future neither does UK plc. A failure to nurture our youth quite simply courts disaster.

Joins us to discuss all these issues and campaign for a better deal for the UK’s youth population at the Youth Employment Convention on 24 November 2015.