Socialist Worker

1 in 5 young people face life on the dole

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2165

More than 250,000 young people across Britain will receive their A-level results this week.

But instead of being a time of celebration, it will be a time of stress as the harsh reality of competition for jobs and university places kicks in.

Some 928,000 18-24 year olds are unemployed – or one in five – and the number is rising.

As young people find it harder to get a job, more are trying to get to university to improve their chances.

Some 60,000 more students have applied to go to university this year compared to 2008.

But unfortunately qualifications don’t provide immunity to the crisis. There are now a third fewer graduate jobs than a year ago.

And each graduate job is in high demand, with an average of 45 people chasing each one.

So the recession is forcing young people to radically change their plans for the future.

James is a student in Dudley, West Midlands, and is halfway through his A-levels.

“I’ve recently had a complete change of heart about what I want to do,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I did want to do journalism or something like that but there have been lots of job losses in the media sector.

“Now I want to go to university and become an English teacher. It’s about consolidating what you’ve got.”


Lack of work also affects young people while they are studying, as many rely on paid part-time work to pay the huge fees and costs of their education in the first place.

“Lots of my friends are worrying about whether they will be able to find a job to support themselves if they go to university,” says James.

“Every other Saturday for the past few years I’ve gone into each and every shop in the high street with my CV.

“You know you’ll hand in your CV and it will probably sit and gather dust – but there’s more chance of getting work than if you don’t hand it in.

“I only recently found a job working in a café.

“The chance of actually getting a proper job has gone out of the window – it’s completely vanished.”

Tom Kay, a school-leaver in Sheffield, is due to go to college in September.

He says that finding work to earn money over the summer has been a struggle.

“The only work around is with agencies,” he told Socialist Worker.

“It’s impossible to find fixed-hours work. In the past I’ve gone round shops and restaurants to look for work. But I went into a shop the other day and they’d already filled their slots for Christmas.”

Worryingly, the one area of growth is the army, which is recruiting 11 percent more graduates this year than 12 months ago.

“We had the army recruitment coming in even at school,” says James. “They came to give talks to people and the army was

portrayed as just another job.

“But now more people see life in the forces as a fallback plan.

“The window of opportunity is being narrowed all the time.”

Gordon Brown’s response to the enormous crisis facing young people has been a disgrace.


The government had pledged to increase the number of university places – but as soon as the recession hit, it cut the number of places by 30,000 and reduced funding by £100 million.

“They need to stop bailing out capitalism and start paying attention to the people who are the future,” says Tom.

“I think we need to argue with young people about why they need to demonstrate at Labour’s conference in Brighton next month.

“16 and 17 year olds don’t even get a vote. The only way we can make our voices heard is on the streets.”

Go to » for further information and transport details for the protest at the Labour Party conference

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Article information

Tue 18 Aug 2009, 17:47 BST
Issue No. 2165
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