Youth in the dust bin

by Daphne Liddle

ONE OF the most striking images of the mass youth unemployment during the Thatcher government years of the 1980s was an article by a young unemployed woman saying she felt her generation were like “flowers in the dustbin” — carefully grown and nurtured to maturity and their full glory and then just casually thrown away as unwanted rubbish.

Over a million young people today are in that same position. The figures vary; the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates there are 640,000 while the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETS) from January to March 2013 was 1,093,000.

The main reason for this is the general high rate of unemployment, meaning there is stiff competition for every job that becomes available. Employers will always prefer those who come with some experience and who are fully fit — meaning that school-leavers, the disabled and the not so- healthy middle-aged will always be at the back of the queue for getting jobs.

There are dozens of schemes for getting the unemployed into work — teaching people how to present themselves at interviews, write good cvs and pressuring them to take anything available regardless of wage levels, hours and conditions.

But whether these schemes are run by the Department of Work and Pensions or by private agencies they make little impact on the numbers languishing in the NEET dustbin because they do not increase the total number of jobs available. If one young person is carefully coached into how to grovel enough to get a job it simply means that another youngster won’t get it. The total number unemployed stays the same.

The impact on the morale of our young people is devastating. A recent survey by the UCU lecturers’ union found that a third of NEETS rarely leave their homes. They have no work to go to and they have no money to engage in any kind of social life — so what is the point of going out. This is not laziness; it is deep, dark despair.

The poll examined views of some 1,000 youngsters aged 16-24 across Britain. It revealed that many feel isolated and are lacking in confidence — 40 per cent feel they are not part of society, 36 per cent believe they will never have a chance of getting a job.

One third have suffered depression, 37 per cent rarely go outside the house and 39 per cent suffer from stress.

“I rarely go out and I feel so down about myself. I’ve tried so hard to find work but I feel no one wants me,” is a common cry.

Papers like the Daily Mail rant about poor education levels and poor social skills — blaming the victims but education levels generally now are much better than in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s when most children were consigned to secondary modern schools.

But they got jobs easily because there were plenty of jobs. If they had poor social skills their fellow workers sorted that out. The change from school to the world of work was always a big leap and new recruits were expected to be a bit green.

And society does owe young people the right to make a living. In a world where the ruling class has appropriated all the land, the factories, mines, and other means of production as its own private property, that class owes it to the rest of the population, at the very least, to allow them access to make a living.

It’s not as if young people can just up sticks, find a bit of unoccupied land, build a home and start to grow their own food.

Instead they get hounded to offer their work for no wages at all on workfare schemes by bosses who seem to think that being allowed to work for them is a privilege.

How many workers would really stick at their jobs if there were not wages or salary to compensate for the time and labour they have sold to the boss? The boss who does not pay for work done is a thief.

We must support our young people and not leave them rotting in the dustbin.

It is up to us communists, socialists and other progressives at least to recruit them into the struggle and give them a chance to fight the system that treats them like rubbish; to raise their morale and their self-respect.

Capitalism may not need them but we definitely do need them to carry on the struggle and to defeat capitalism.