Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
29 September 2017updated 09 Sep 2021 5:24pm

The gift that politicians can give the young? Hope

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

By Nicholas Barrett

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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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.

Content from our partners
Why modelling matters: its role in future healthcare challenges
Helping children be safer, smarter, happier internet explorers
Power to the people

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