THE COST OF DOING NOTHING

At our session at Progressive London, we ask you which ideas you wanted us to campaign on youth unemployment and how you wanted to campaign on this.

We also invited
a cracking line up of speakers who are organising for young people right across the country - Sam Tarry, Hope not Hate Organiser and Chair of Young Labour, Nizam Uddin, President of University of London Union, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Black Students’ Officer for NUS, Mercury Music Award Winner – Speech Debelle and Rowenna Davis, Journalist at Guardian, Independent & Headliners.

Here's what Rowenna advised young activists on how to campaign on youth unemployment.

"As a facilitator I don’t feel it’s my place to impose a particular campaign on you, but I wanted to offer you three pointers that I think good campaigns to tackle youth unemployment will build on. I’m particularly interested in what might get you coverage in this rather cynical media industry that I work in.

Make the most of the numbers

One in five young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) is an absolutely shocking statistic. It sticks in people’s minds, it’s easy to repeat to friends and it reminds us that all young people are facing this problem now – not just those in a particular group.

As a bit of an example, I had to do an article the other day about NEETs and I put the word out that I needed interviewees. I got some guy’s number and an incredibly upper class male answered the phone. I asked him if he was a NEET. “By Jove!” he said, “Golly, I do believe I am.” What I’m trying to say is – we’re all NEET now.

Highlight the cost of doing nothing

We always here about the cost of action, but the cost of inaction is often much higher. Already youth unemployment is costing us an estimated £500m a year in benefits, not to mention an untold amount in foregone earnings. If you’re NEET, you’re more likely to be engaged in crime, and if you’re female and NEET, you’re 22 times more likely to undergo teenage pregnancy.

There is also evidence to suggest that youth unemployment has particularly high costs – it’s the worst age to be unemployed. A gap on your CV after 10 years of work looks like bad luck, but a gap straight after education? It looks terrible. It can also have particularly bad effects on a young person’s self esteem – they don’t have so many past successes to prop up their confidence.

Find the power inequalities in society

The third and final point is a little different. It’s where I put my lefty hat on. If you want to solve youth unemployment, you have to locate it in the broader context of power inequalities in society. Despite my earlier reference to the “middle class NEET”, youth unemployment still disproportionately effects the poorest in our society.

Young NEETs are twice as likely to live in social sector housing, and their parents have a 15% chance of having higher educational qualifications as compared to 40% in the general public. NEETs are twice as likely to have caring responsibilities, and they’re more likely to have learning disabilities.

Any solutions to youth unemployment we put forward should take account of these power inequalities, and help solve them. It’s not about shoe horning all young people into the nearest job – we need to look at who is getting what jobs where. At the moment, over 90% of the UK is state educated, but only 40% of our politicians; 14% of our journalists; 3% of our scientists and scholars and just 2% of our judges went to state school.

If your solution to youth unemployment is simply unpaid internships, you’ll never change this divide. Those at the bottom simply won’t be able to afford to participate.

These are incredibly deep and complicated problems, and I don’t pretend to have a fraction of the answers. I look forward to hearing what you and the other panel members have to say."
Rowenna Davis

Want to get involved in our campaign on youth unemployment All Doled Up. What will you pledge?

1. Join the campaign
2. Come to our events
3. Tell us your idea

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