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From: The Socialist issue 790, 27 November 2013: We need a real living wage!

Search site for keywords: Britain - Young people - Jobs - Pay - Capitalism - University - Economy - Youth - Tories - Labour - Benefits - Unemployment - Unemployed - British economy

The Socialist editorial, issue 790

No recovery for Britain's young people

Workfare: We don't want to go back to the victorian age! photo Senan

Workfare: We don't want to go back to the victorian age! photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

The supporters of capitalism might be calling the feeble growth in the economy a "recovery" but Britain's young people are still left reeling.

University graduates, for example, have seen their chances of getting a job worsen every year, and there's still no sign of any improvement.

The proportion of graduates out of work increased by over 10% last year - to almost double the rate before the crisis.

There were on average 50 applicants competing for every graduate job in September. That's not good news for anyone.

As graduates are blocked from jobs which would enable them to use the skills that they'd developed in university, they are increasingly taking jobs which previously would have been open to those without a degree.

The policies of the main parties will worsen the situation. Both Labour and the Tories have signed up to make 40 billion worth of further cuts if they win the next election, meaning massive job losses.

That's a blow aimed directly at the hopes of young people, since, according to the Office of National Statistics, 40% of graduates get their first job in the public sector.

There's no escape outside of university either. If anything, the crash has made the situation facing young people who take a different path even bleaker: almost half of those who left school at 16 without five A*-C grades at GCSEs are now so-called Neets - they have no job, and are not in education or training. Contrary to David Cameron's claims, these people aren't "choosing the dole".

According to the government's own figures, there are five times more jobseekers than there are jobs to go around. It's as simple as that.

Neither Tory plans to end benefits completely for the under-25s nor Labour's promise to be "tougher on benefit claimants than the Tories" will create the jobs these people need in order to get on in life.

Unemployment isn't caused by the unemployed: it's a product of this failed, capitalist system, which has left a generation with nowhere to go.

Even some of the more serious strategists of the capitalist class are starting to worry about the social consequences.

Explosion of anger

Tale of Two Cities - Youth Fight for Jobs protest against Workfare in Stratford's Westfield shopping centre in London 25 February 2012 , photo senan

Tale of Two Cities - Youth Fight for Jobs protest against Workfare in Stratford's Westfield shopping centre in London 25 February 2012 , photo senan   (Click to enlarge)

And so they should. All the conditions are laid for an explosion of anger that could make either the tuition fees protests of 2010 or the summer riots of 2011 pale by comparison.

It's even worse than the official unemployment statistics show. Jobs have been lost on the same catastrophic scale as the 1980s, but the proliferation of super-exploited precarious jobs such as zero-hour contracts has massaged the figures.

This means that alongside a million officially unemployed youth there are millions more who are under-employed.

They are sick of their boss holding over them the threat of no hours next week. They fear that if they object to their exploitation in any way, they won't have enough hours.

They risk being unable to pay their bills unless they do half their managers' job on top of their own, work hours of unpaid overtime or put up with unsafe working conditions without complaint.

The anger of students blocked from getting on, and the frustration of the working poor is joined by the rage felt by those locked out of work completely and forced onto benefits, who are then demonised by the press and hounded by the sanctions regime (over 40% of those hit by penalties last year were under 25).

Under the hammer blows of these attacks, young people are being forced closer and closer together. Wages have fallen every month for the last four years, but graduate pay has fallen the fastest.

Graduate salaries fell 3.4% last year - faster than the 2% real terms pay cut that was the average.

Half of recent UK graduates are in any case now in jobs which don't require a degree, says the ONS. But even those who do manage to find a graduate job are discovering that their pay and conditions aren't that different.

They've lost 12% of the pay pre-crisis graduates could claim, while owing 60% more student debt.

Boom and bust

The crisis has squeezed the middle class into the working class, and not just in the short-term. A Guardian editorial said that even if there is continuous growth, this year's graduates would not catch up with their pre-crisis peers for another 15 years.

The 2007-8 economic crash demonstrated that capitalism is and always will be a system of destructive cycles of boom and bust, which periodically wreck the lives of ordinary people.

Given the political, economic and social instability that exists, 15 years without a crisis is ruled out.

There is currently weak growth in the British economy, but that is based mostly on another housing bubble and a rise in consumer spending not backed by increases in wages.

Despite the promises, manufacturing is weaker than ever and none of the major imbalances in the economy have been corrected: Osborne's "march of the makers" never materialised.

The recession hasn't finished with us yet, but it's not clear where the next blow will come from.

A collapse at the Co-operative Bank or another institution could trigger another credit crunch; 100,000 more firms will go bust as soon as interest rates rise, said one thinktank; the "recovery" in the eurozone is faltering, recording just 0.1% growth last quarter. Any of these factors could trigger another collapse.

What is also ruled out is a lengthy period without a response from Britain's youth, currently being ground under capitalism's heel.

The conditions are incendiary, but explosions can be either destructive or productive: what is missing is an engine - a mass workers' political party and a trade union leadership that points the way out of the crisis through action - which could harness the spark of anger in Britain's youth and turn fire into motion.

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The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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