As Europe tackles youth unemployment, is the UK falling behind?

Doing a bad job.

A few days ago, Germany and France announced plans to tackle the mass youth unemployment gripping southern Europe with a "New Deal".

Under the plans, 6 bn euros from the European Investment Bank will help encourage job creation at small and medium sized businesses, after the eurozone debt crisis has left many SME’s struggling to borrow money from banks.
The deal will also pay for language courses and fund jobseekers' flights around the continent in search of work.

Nearly one in four young people in the eurozone is out of work – with that figure rising to more than half in Greece and Spain.

The hope is that the “New Deal” will curb the mounting anger that is threatening the eurozone partnership.

We haven’t felt the same levels of frustration in the UK, even though youth unemployment recently reached almost 1 million, with more than half claiming benefits.

But this is not to say that the UK youth doesn’t have the same concerns. A striking issue, for example, is the amount of unemployed new graduates. It’s commonly known that graduates, whether moving on from a postgraduate or undergraduate degree, are expected to apply for unpaid internships, traineeships or minimally funded graduate programmes.

Recently, a friend of mine graduated from a top-5 UK University. The ceremony was held 7 months after the students had handed in their dissertations, and one would expect to hear interesting stories of how the students had ventured into the job market. Unfortunately for my friend and her classmates, this was not the case. Out of 143 students, less than 10 had a paid job. About 30 of them were currently working in unpaid internships, and the remaining majority were already fed up with the brutal job market.  

Since then, the majority of the students are still in unpaid internships or unemployed. Most students are expecting to spend a year at least, working without a salary – as for my friend, she’s on her third unpaid internship.

This story is not unique. Looking around jobsites, the amount of unpaid internships is staggering. And when asking graduates and university career centres alike, it’s clear that many graduates believe this is the only way to get a foothold in the UK job market.

Fair enough, in an economy that is still recovering from the financial crisis, this might be the case. But it’s worth considering what other countries have done to deal with youth unemployment.

With the “New Deal” suggested by some of Europe’s top leaders, countries will be urged to emulate the successful German apprenticeship model, which has given Germany the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe. As a result, it is expected that thousands of young people from crisis-hit countries will take up apprenticeship places in Germany over the next few years.

In Scandinavian countries the amount of young unemployed people has also been a concern, and long before European leaders decided to intervene.
In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, politicians have long been eager to invest in schemes for young people in order to ensure that they don’t become unemployed for the long-term. The welfare states have long known that unemployed youths could have long-term consequences for the state economy. For example, studies have proven that youths who remain unemployed for more than two years, often remain dependent on the state for a longer amount of time.

Realising this, the Danish government has already invested millions in order to create more apprenticeships and jobs for youths. No doubt about it, this immediate investment will be well worth it in the form of long-term savings on unemployment benefits to young people.

Now, youth unemployment is definitely a far greater concern in some European countries than the UK. But this may not be the case for long. Youth unemployment in the UK is on the rise and the amount of new graduates in unpaid internships is seriously compromising the standard of living for many young people. Others are forced to stay at home for years on end.

Studies have shown that exposure to the job market will provide youths with far greater imperatives to be a continuous part of the working force. Whereas poverty, seclusion and other social factors could seriously damage their social mobility. So one has to wonder why investments in job and apprenticeship schemes are not considered a greater priority by the UK government. After all, today’s youth is tomorrow’s workforce – and thereby, the income that will fund any future political decisions.     

Photograph: Getty Images

Sandra Kilhof Nielsen is a freelance writer and former reporter for Retail Banker International, Cards International & Electronic Payments International.

Photo: Getty
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What the tragic case of Charlie Gard tells us about the modern world

People now believe medical science can perform miracles, and many search for them online.

If Charlie Gard had been born 40 years ago, there would have been no doubt about what would, and should, happen. Doctors treating a baby with a rare genetic condition that causes the body’s organs to shut down would have told his parents “nothing more can be done for him”. Charlie – deaf, epileptic, his muscles wasted, his brain probably damaged – would have died peacefully and unremarked. If an experimental US treatment had given such children an estimated 10 per cent chance of survival, his parents would not have known about it. Even if they had, they would have sorrowfully deferred to British doctors.

Now people believe that medical science can perform miracles and, through the internet, search the world for them. Yet they do not trust the knowledge and judgement of the medical profession. They rally public support and engage lawyers to challenge the doctors, as Charlie’s parents unsuccessfully did in the hope of being allowed to take their child for experimental treatment in America, despite warnings that it would be ineffective and distressing for him. This is a strange situation, the result of medical progress, social media, globalisation and the decline of deference. It causes much heartache to everybody involved but, like Charlie’s death, it is probably unavoidable.

Mogg days

A few weeks ago, Jacob Rees-Mogg was a 50-1 outsider for the Tory leadership. Now, as I write, he is third or fourth favourite, quoted by the bookmakers at between 6-1 and 10-1. For a few days, he was the second favourite, ahead of both Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond and behind only David Davis, the clear front-runner. Perhaps Davis organised rich friends – of which I am sure he has a few – to flood the market with bets on Rees-Mogg to frighten Tory MPs into rallying behind him.

But do not write off the man dubbed “the honourable member for the early 20th century” – generously, in my view, since he looks and behaves as though he has stepped off an 18th-century country estate and he actually lives on a 17th-century one. Rees-Mogg, a hard Brexiteer, would be an appropriate leader if we left the EU with no deal. Having excused ourselves from the world’s largest and most cohesive trading bloc, our best prospect for earning our living would be as a giant 18th-century theme park. Who better than Rees-Mogg to front it?

The royal revenue stream

Princess Diana is the gift that keeps on giving. TV companies produce documentaries on the anniversaries of her death and marriage. New tapes, photos and letters are unearthed. Anyone who cut her hair, cleaned her windows or sold her a frock can make a bob or two from “my memories of Diana”. Most important, Diana guarantees the future of the royal family for at least another half-century. In an ITV documentary, Prince William spoke movingly and sincerely (as did his brother, Harry) about losing a mother. Even the most hard-hearted republicans must now hesitate to deprive him also of a throne.

Strictly newsreading

I am a BBC fan. I regard the requirement, imposed by the Tories, that the corporation publishes the names and salary bands of employees paid more than £150,000 a year as an attempt to exploit “the politics of envy” of which Labour is normally accused. But I wonder if the corporation could help itself by offering even more transparency than the government demands.

It could, for example, explain exactly why Gary Lineker (£1.75m-£1.79m), Jeremy Vine (£700,000-£749,999) and Huw Edwards (£550,000-£599,999) are so handsomely paid. Do they possess skills, esoteric knowledge or magnetic attraction to viewers and listeners unavailable to other mortals and particularly to their women colleagues who are apparently unworthy of such lavish remuneration? Were they wooed by rival broadcasters? If so, which rivals and how much did they offer? Have BBC women received lower offers or no offers at all? The BBC could go further. It could invite a dozen unknowns to try doing the jobs of top presenters and commentators, turn the results into a programme, and invite viewers or listeners to decide if the novices should replace established names and, if so, at what salaries. We elect the people who make our laws and the couples who go into the final stages of Strictly Come Dancing. Why shouldn’t we elect our newsreaders and, come to that, Strictly’s presenters?

Mail order

A tabloid newspaper, founded in 1896 and now with its headquarters in Kensington High Street, west London, obsessed with the Islamist terror threat, convinced that it speaks for Middle England. An editor, in the chair for a quarter-of-a-century, who makes such liberal use of the C-word that his editorial conferences are known as “the vagina monologues” and whose voice is comparable to that of “a maddened bull elephant”. Sound familiar?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Splash!, a newly published satirical novel about a tabloid newspaper from the long-serving Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover. Now I have had early sight of The Beast, due out in September, also a satirical novel about a tabloid paper, written by Alexander Starritt who briefly worked on the Mail after leaving Oxford University. Like Glover, he pays homage to Evelyn Waugh’s classic Scoop, where the main characters worked for the Daily Beast, but there the similarities end. Glover has written what is essentially a defence of tabloid journalism. Starritt offers a fierce, blackly comic critique, though he cannot, in the end, quite avoid casting the editor Paul Dacre – sorry, Charles Brython – as a heroic, if monstrous, figure.

How many other journalists or ex-journalists are writing satirical novels about the Mail? And why the presumed public interest? Newspapers, with fewer readers than ever, are supposed to be dying. Fiction publishers seem to disagree. 

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 27 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Summer double issue