Since the hard hit of the recession in 2008; the UK is no stranger to the ever growing statistical rise of unemployment.
The unemployment rate of young people has become a highly discussed and analysed topic of today’s society. So much so, that the government has officially dubbed the age bracket of 16–24 year olds as NEETs; Not in Education, Employment or Training.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the unemployment rate for NEETs is currently over the 1million mark, so why is this?
When faced with the seemingly age old question of unemployment, the common reply appears to be; “But there aren’t any jobs out there.”
There is no doubt that there are a large amount of people who are more than happy to sit around and do nothing, whilst reaping the benefits of tax payers’ money, but what about those who are trying; The ones that can appreciate and all too well understand the vitality of a steady income?
For every job applied for, there are another 100+ applicants all vying for the same position and that is just to make it into the interview process.
Workfare of Hardly Fair
So where does that leave our NEETs of today: It seems near impossible to get a job without the appropriate experience, but how is one expected to gain the necessary experience, if no-one is willing to present the opportunity to learn within the working environment. Through this question the Work Experience Programme was born.
The Work Experience Programme or ‘Workfare’ scheme is a method aimed at NEETs to help them back into the working environment. The scheme offers a voluntary job role of 25 to 30 hours per week for 2 to 8 weeks, to those claiming jobseekers allowance and who have been unemployed for more than 3 months.
The WEP, though strictly stated as voluntary; requires candidates to work their hours unpaid and with no security of a definite job at the end of their work experience. With that in mind, if a jobseeker were to refuse to complete their unpaid work, the consequences are two weeks’ worth of their jobseekers allowance to be cut.
Unsurprisingly this proposal over recent weeks received a controversial back lash from the public taking its form in debates, protests and swarming across social networks such as Twitter and Facebook in its outrage. Companies such as BurgerKing, Waterstones, Sainsbury, TK Maxx and Philip Green’s Arcadia group, have since pulled out of the scheme whilst others are in talks of rectifying the situation.
The scheme also has repercussion for the people (young or otherwise) who are not claiming any benefits. If companies do not need to pay their workfare employees, there is less, if not no need, to employ those who would require minimum wage or more; Thus adding to the perpetual cycle of the unemployment trap.
The counter-argument to workfare is that it provides real-to-life working experiences that will benefit them in the future. Though this, to a certain extent, is true; the positions available to the scheme do not aid the individual to progress in a business or career sense, as most unpaid internships do, and instead encourage and exploit free labour.
With ever increasing budget cuts, the majority of companies hiring are only looking for those with relevant and more importantly, current experience. It seems in this existing climate that not even educational credentials are enough to land a job.
Whilst employment prospects appear daunting at best, it is not the only thing young people have to worry about. Plans for higher education have left tuition fees at an almighty high, with a maximum cost of £9,000, and a staggering 130 institutions averaged £7,500 per year in 2012-13; Leaving even less opportunity for the young to further develop their abilities and capabilities.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) communicated their fears of today’s NEETs becoming a ‘lost generation of young people’ if problems were not to be resolved. While the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) stated ‘Today’s rise in the number of young people not in employment education or training, is the biggest since records began in 2000.’
The idea of today’s youths becoming our future leaders is an overwhelming notion, for how can the masses lead tomorrow without even a hope of opportunity for today?