British youth: a generation living without predictability or security
OECD warns that youth joblessness is Britain’s biggest challenge
Britain’s prime minister David Cameron (right) talks to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cyprus’s president Nicos Anastasiades during last week’s EU summit in Brussels, at which agreement was reached on new steps to fight youth unemployment. Photograph: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters
The OECD estimates that those in Britain now aged from 15 to 29 will on average spend 2.3 years without a job during their working lives, compared with the 1.1 years likely in the Netherlands and the 1.7 years in Germany. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Social researchers already know British youth in search of work by an acronym: the precariat. It is a social class “formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security”.
Depending on the analysis and the political perspective — and both vary wildly in the partisan world of British politics — their numbers far exceed the 1.4 million young people currently without work, in college or in training.
For the poorly educated the situation is grim. Last week the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development warned that they are the UK’s biggest challenge: “The crisis has amplified the value of a good education,” said one of the organisation’s officials, Andreas Schleicher.
For those today aged from 15 to 29, the OECD estimates that they will on average spend 2.3 years without a job during their working lives, compared with the 1.1 years likely in The Netherlands, the 1.3 years expected in Switzerland and the 1.7 years in Germany.
The difficulties are illustrated by a blind survey carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation late last year. It lodged applications for low-paid, unskilled work in a variety of jobs in England and Wales. The one positive finding was that employers were not barring candidates simply because they come from undesirable estates or postcodes, but it was the only glimmer in an otherwise bleak picture.
Intense competition for jobs
More than two-thirds of applicants had no response whatsoever. Only one in four jobs were full-time and during the day. Just over half were minimum wage, while applications sent within three days of an advertisement were three times more likely to get a response than those that came later.
“Intense competition meant that some employers advertise vacancies online and close them as soon as they have sufficient applicants to select from,” said the foundation.
“Not all job-seekers were aware how speedily they need to respond to vacancies, and those without internet access at home were at a disadvantage. Young people have to apply quickly and consistently to stand any chance,” it said.
The situation looks even bleaker when the issue of colour is considered: 47 per cent of black people aged between 16 and 24 are out of work, compared with 29 per cent of those with an Asian ethnicity, but contrasting with 20 per cent of their white counterparts.
Immigration has played its part, regardless of the denials offered by some, with employers preferring eastern Europeans, seeing them as more biddable, more hard-working and less demanding than their British counterparts.