The young and the unemployed

A lot of news in the UK this week has been focussed on youth unemployment – specifically 16-24 year olds, and how high it is.

As someone who’s undergraduate degree has nothing to do with his career since leaving University, I can relate. I’ve had this conversation with the Bee, who worked through summers and Christmas holidays for minimum wage if not less in some instances. I didn’t start working till I was 18 and then it was in the summers in some very manual jobs (for example cleaning subway stations in Toronto from 11pm to 7am).

So I find it hard to relate to people who leave school at 16 and then live on benefits, I’d much rather the government focused on creating apprenticeships and keeping people in school, I understand tuitions are high, especially in the UK. But when employment figures clearly show that those with higher education have much lower unemployment figures and when the government isn’t asking for people to pay back student debt until they’re earning over £21K, I don’t get why people don’t stay in school?

So, I voiced my opinion on Twitter and Zohra (a good friend, fellow Canadian and someone who’s opinions I value) and I had a bit of back and forth about it that I thought was worth sharing. It was over twitter so please excuse the txt talk.

Me – tired of the UK youth unemplymnt stats. Moved across the world to get a job/got paid little to get experience, feel like a bitter old man
Zohra - do you mean you had to suffer, so everyone should? Or something else?

Me - no, mean if you don’t have qualifications – voluntr or study, like sayin can’t afford a big flat so I’ll live in a council flat
Me – if you can’t afford your dream flat you live in what you can afford/with your parents, why is work different?
Me – if you can’t get the job you think you deserve, take the job you can get, or volunteer, to build up your cv (end of rant)
Zohra - if there are no jobs, and tuition fees are £9k a year (for a BA!), then it’s not really as simple as: adjust your attitude?

Me – 9k is high, but you don’t pay it back till your earning >£20K?! why are we measuring unemployment for 16-19 year olds?
Zohra - erm, the unemp figures r worse they’ve been in 20yrs or summat (so no jobs, period), & u have 2 have money already 2 volunteer.
Zohra -understand that you worked hard (been there, too), but the figures on youth unemp are from ONS – not just ‘complaining yng ppl’

Zohra - hmmm, if I’d volunteered instead of worked over my teenage summers, I’d not have been able to pay my uni tuition
Zohra - in my case it affected my options, working @ that age, in the summers – & during school yr too. I think relevant 4 that age grp
Me – but that’s the point you went to Uni and worked (guessing for min wage), as did I, if u leave school at 16 what ru expecting?

Zohra - also, thats 9k a year = 36k by end of uni, and hello, 20k in london?! Doable, but it’s not like ur guaranteed earnings on a BA.
Me – they should be in school or getting an apprenticeship, if you look at unemployment for those with higher ed, it’s much lower
Zohra - well, that’s great news at least. To be honest though, I’m still in the ‘school should be free’ camp :)

Some interesting food for thought, while I would also love to see University be free – especially with the thought of paying for a child’s university in 16 or so years, the thought of how much university may cost is scary. However, even if for some reason I can’t afford to pay for my children’s university education, I would still encourage them to go to school for as long as possible.

I don’t have many friends who didn’t go to university for some time at least and at the same time I don’t have many friends who’ve been unemployed or on benefits for years, I think that’s a bit of causation there.

What I’d love to see is University tuitions scale as the year of study goes up. So first year of university would be free, however in second and third year tuition fees would be introduced, and these would scale and go higher for graduate certification and post graduate studies. As I believe if you give people an incentive to at least start University they’ll see the value and hopefully stay in University.

I don’t know what the exact solution is, but I do think the UK benefits system, in many cases, provides people with the wrong incentives. I do believe that work should always be more attractive then being on support, I’m just not sure how you make that system work.

  • Tweets that mention The young and the unemployed – Who is Farhan Lalji? —

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Farhan Lalji, zohra moosa. zohra moosa said: RT @farhanlalji: The young and the unemployed – a conversation between me and @zohramoosa – new blog post – […]

  • jend

    I think this becomes a surreal conversation for North Americans.

  • Bee

    hmmm….i agree with zohra…school should be free. educated people make for a better society, right? but even when uni used to be free….did it really make for a better britain? i am not really sure…
    as for looking for work…i agree with you, F….work at the job that is available….even if it is stacking shelves. you have to start somewhere. and we all paid to go university in north america and we survived. even though we came from families that couldn't help us out with the fees because they couldn't afford it.
    working during school and in my summers meant that i came out of university with a bunch of experience under my belt. great for further employment.

    love what you said about work should always be more attractive than being on benefits. at mcgill they had a system that reserved a certain amount of jobs for kids on government loans at school so that they could work on campus at a secure job – great idea and i really benefitted from this….can't we just think of similar creative ways of dealing with this?