The gift that politicians can give the young? Hope

Low pay, discrimination and debt: young women face a grim future. 


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Low pay, job insecurity, debt, workplace discrimination and a lack of hope – the results of the Young Women’s Trust’s new report, Worrying Times, certainly make for grim reading. However, if you’re a young person, I doubt there’s much in the report that could be described as surprising.

After all, 40 per cent of us expect to have a less comfortable life than our parents, and why shouldn’t we? Uncertainty over Brexit, housing costs and worries about our financial futures are at the forefront of the millennial mind.

As someone on not one but two different zero-hour contracts, this uncertainty is something that I deal with on a daily basis. I do casual work as a cleaner but my main source of income is working as a science communicator, which means that I tell your children that science is great.

It’s a wonderful job but I’ll only get shifts if I can get my hands on the rota before everyone else does. My idea of long-term financial planning involves taking on as much work as I can and spending as little as possible this month, just in case next month’s pay cheque is a little lean. How can I possibly think about setting aside reasonable sums towards a stable future?

I’m not alone in this; two in five young women say that it’s a struggle to make their money last to the end of the month and 41 per cent of young people are worried about being able to buy a home. To me, home ownership is a fairytale.

At £7.65 an hour I’m not doing too badly compared to some – one in six young people have been paid less than the minimum wage. Even if you are paid the legal minimum, what many don’t realise is that the minimum wage varies depending on how old you are; you can be paid as little as £4.05 an hour if you’re under 18.

I used to work in a café; as I wasn’t 25, I was being paid less than my co-workers for the same job. It’s extremely demoralising to be told that your time and labour is worth less, not because of your skills or experience, but because of how many times you’ve been round the sun. Do politicians think that 24-year-olds don’t eat as much, don’t pay as much rent or use as much gas and electricity as 25-year-olds?

Not that young people have much faith in politicians anyway, with a whopping 60 per cent saying that their confidence in our leaders has worsened. What can government do? Well, a minimum wage that everyone could live on and that didn’t discriminate based on age would be a solid start. Some legislation to give workers on zero hours some security, rather than this long term hand-wringing over the issue. A building programme that means a proper home in the future.

The truth of the matter is, my generation would settle for just a little hope.

Nia Johnson is 25 and a member of the Young Women’s Trust advisory panel. Young Women’s Trust’s new report “Worrying Times” can be found here

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