The latest unemployment figures saw those looking for a job top 2.5 million, unemployment of 16-17 year olds rise by 4.4%, and the number of economically inactive reach its highest ever levels. But neither the Conservative nor the Lib Dem wing of the new government has proposed serious measures to provide jobs for workers and young people facing the brunt of this ongoing crisis. Instead the headlines are £6 billion cuts in public services to reassure the 'markets', code for multi-billionaires like George Soros and co. But why is it a priority to reassure the wealthy fat cats and not unemployed young people? During the election campaign, an unemployed young woman called Vicky Harrison committed suicide because of the hopeless situation she felt confronted by, after receiving over 200 job rejections. How many more young people feel in a similar situation? How much more are they in need of reassurance than wealthy hedge fund managers who only noticed the recession because their bonuses were five figures rather than six. We were abandoned by Labour during the onset of the recession, and the Tory/Liberal coalition is not going to change that situation.
The Conservatives during the general election talked about abolishing the Future Jobs Fund. Youth Fight for Jobs criticised this scheme because it did not offer permanent jobs, only six month placements, often on the minimum wage. Because of their temporary nature, they were likely to be low skilled, and more fundamentally did not ultimately change the employment outlook. The number of vacancies is dropping (now at 475,000) while the number of unemployed increases. This scheme has already created anger amongst young people forced onto it, many of whom will undoubtedly welcome its abolition. But signs are that the Conservatives will introduce schemes which are less useful than that. According to the Financial Times: "The Tories promise to create 400,000 apprenticeship or training places and give smaller companies a £2,000 bonus for every apprentice hired but have made no pledge to continue Labour's £1 billion in Future Jobs Fund."
During the 1980s, Thatcher's government reacted to mass unemployment with the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), but its inadequacy in providing a real way out for young people provoked mass opposition, including school student strikes involving 250,000. As Seumas Milne, commentator, says: "The prospect of ... Iain Duncan Smith dragooning the sick and jobless into privatised cheap labour schemes is a sobering measure of the new reality." This sort of scheme could provoke a reaction comparable to the protests in the mid-eighties. Benefits are widely expected to be "reformed" ie cut, and used to force people into schemes that will not benefit them. Big attacks are already expected to continue in further and higher education. Many young people have continued in education, or re-entered, to gain skills and avoid the thankless task of chasing non-existent jobs. But cuts in colleges and universities will still go ahead, while many young people are worried about attacks on grants for those in colleges (EMA for 16-19s, ALG for those above 19). Further down the line, the cap on university places remains in place and the threat of university fee increases. Many young people voted Liberal Democrat because they were seen as an alternative to the main political parties, especially because they promised eventually to scrap university fees.
However, the details of the coalition deal make it clear that the Liberal/Tory coalition will definitely not abolish fees, and most likely will preside over increases in charges for students, with Conservative and Labour MPs voting them through. The only thing that would stop them are cynical calculations in order to cling onto power in the face of organised mass opposition. This coalition will implement Conservative attacks on young people and the unemployed - the attacks that were found in the manifestos of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. The new cabinet is two-thirds private school, two-thirds Oxford and Cambridge university educated, with multi-millionaires well represented within their ranks. Youth Fight for Jobs will continue to organise for a mass fightback, for a programme of job creation to solve the problems of unemployment, for free education to allow people to develop to the best of their abilities, and for a living wage that will allow those in work to live a decent life.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.