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Let's better the lives of young workers

Monday 1 December 2014 Student Journalists

The prospect of an upcoming election should sow feelings of optimism and democratic enrichment, but for a lot of people – in particular young workers – this election may feel like a dense cloud of unchanging disregard hanging over a disassociated and disenfranchised young electorate, reveals NUS Journalist James McCrory.

On 7 May of next year, the ballot boxes open once again and the British public will decide who will assume governmental powers for the next five years.

There are many things that are crucially plaguing the young working populous of Britain today. Things like the introduction of zero hour contracts have seen young people exploited as a cheap source of expendable labour, full time apprenticeships paying a lower minimum wage that the national minimum wage of 18 to 20-year-olds and, of course, the obscene idea and practice that is unpaid internships.

These are just a few of the many problems that our young workforce faces under the current government. This problem – and it is just that, a problem – has seen the young people of today who are out trying to make a living and a life for themselves dubbed “Generation Rent,” due to the fact that the opportunities and working frameworks implemented and overseen by our current government don’t afford them the opportunity to get themselves on the property ladder, the most crucial component of independent living.

Another very sinister and startling change that has occurred under the coalition is the fact that earnings for 18 to 21 year olds have dropped by 10.3 per cent since 2010, while 22 to 29 year olds saw their weekly income fall by 9.4 per cent, according to research by the House of Commons library.

We have seen over the past four years an array of measures introduced by the coalition government that have resulted in an outright burden being placed on the backs of this country's young people.

It has been said time and again, and quite frankly is common sense, that a competent and prudent general consensus would be to protect and advance the working ethos and abilities of our young people in order to safeguard the future prosperity of the country.

During his welfare reform crusade David Cameron was quoted at the time saying:

'But we will say something else. That for far too long in this country, people who can work, people who are able to work, and people who choose not to work: you cannot go on claiming welfare like you are now.'

There is no doubt that a healthy working system among the entire population is essential in order to secure a prosperous nation. But how can that be accomplished unless the future of work – the young workers – aren’t first given a sustainable platform and an effective toolkit with which they can build an economically healthy life for themselves, which in turn will pay dividends to national economic health now and in the future.

A BBC survey earlier this year showed that 42.4 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 stated that they had no interest in politics. This fell to 21 per cent for over-65s.

It also found that younger voters have significantly lower turnout rates at elections than the middle-aged and elderly, with only 44 per cent taking part in the 2010 general election.

This is clear evidence that there is a disassociation and disinterest between young people and politics and that is because they have become disenfranchised by government, as they feel that their wants, needs and rights are simply being bypassed when it comes to decision making.

Comedian and now political editor Russell Brand boycotted voting claiming that the only way that Britain will see political change is through the refusal to vote.

Well I say that is not the solution. The solution to promoting the rights of young workers is through legitimate campaigning and an active involvement in the political process. Democracy is a wonderful thing and if we don’t use it then it will be exploited. Our voice, our country - let’s get to work.


NUS journalist for work in the lead up to the 2015 general election. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am currently a student studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford in Manchester. I studied Broadcast Journalism for two years at Belfast Metropolitan College where I attained a level 5, Higher National Diploma in the subject.

I have had work published for the Salfordian, NUS and various student publications in Belfast. I have had experience working with UTV in Ireland and the BBC and I was also the Vice Chairperson of the Royal Television Society (RTS) Futures programme. I aspire now and in the future to be an activist journalist, never short of an opinion on a range of historic and contemporary issues.