The Lost Generation: Problems of the young need urgent action say Lib Dem and Labour

All this week, The Journal has been examining the situation faced by young people in the North East in our series The Lost Generation

The series has examined how young people are suffering in a range of areas, including housing, unemployment, education and debt. A number of campaigners have said that the younger generation is being unfairly targeted by the Government because older people are more likely to vote.

To round off the series, we asked the three main political parties for their thoughts on what we have written.

Members of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties responded to our requests, but despite a number of requests to the Conservatives over the last three days, nobody from the party was ever made available for interview or to supply a statement.

Rachel Reeves, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:

My biggest concern is the number of young people out of work. Over 900,000 people aren’t in work across the UK and the high volume of young people claiming job seekers allowance is a huge problem.

Labour will increase taxes on banks’ balance sheets and introduce a levy on bankers’ bonuses to pay for job guarantees if we the 2015 election.

We will use the money to fund our jobs programme for young people. The programme provides unemployed young people aged 16-24 with a job opportunity for a six-month period paid at national minimum wage. The majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector.

During the 1980s and 1990s you saw short-term unemployment quickly become lifetime unemployment and it’s happening again today. Despite the Coalition claiming there has been a fall in unemployment, one in five young people are out of work. This is not only a huge waste to them but a huge waste to the economy.

One of the biggest debates in the House in recent times is the tripling of university tuition fees. Not a single Labour MP voted in favour of this.

The Coalition voted in favour of the increase and now students are racking up huge debts which they’re going to be paying off for decades to come. Labour would prefer to have a graduate tax which we feel is a fairer way of getting people to contribute to their university education. We would also like to cut university fees down to £6,000 instead of £9,000.

Julie Porksen, Liberal Democrat cadidate for Berwick, in Northumberland:

Whether or not it’s a ‘lost generation’ is a point of view. We all have a responsibility to be positive and optimistic and in some ways the term lost generation almost implies giving up hope. When I talk to young people, there are many difficulties to be faced, when young people for example are in school, however I think labelling a generation is lost is perhaps rather negative.

Wages bear no relation to cost of living, particularly when it comes to housing, and that’s very worrying for people at every age, especially people who are starting their careers on lower wages.

On the positive, it was really encouraging to see more university places accepted, which is really fantastic. The Labour government’s objective of having 50% of school leavers becoming graduates was an unrealistic target and not founded in the numbers of graduate jobs that were available, and also sacrificed other forms of training.

All the research says that older people vote more. If you take housing benefit, for example, older people were just excluded from the new housing benefit rules without consideration to whether or not people wanted to move – they were just exempt from the whole system.

I don’t agree with how the rules were implemented, and that’s why the new Lib Dem policy on this actually responds to the more realistic situation that we have in the country.

If you want to move and can’t move because there aren’t houses then they shouldn’t be charged.

Conservatives

The Journal asked earlier this week for a member of the Conservatives to respond to our series. Despite a number of follow-up requests- and the suggestion that a senior party figure, and then an MP, would be available - nobody responded in time for our original story.

A day late Rebecca Harris from the party sent us this response.

Even before Labour’s great recession hit in 2008 things were tough for young people. During the thirteen years of Labour Government half a million people lost their jobs and youth unemployment rose by 45%. It’s a longstanding problem.

This isn’t good enough.

Jobs really do matter. Giving people the feeling of a wage in their pocket every month is the best way to help people plan for a secure future.

That’s why we have a long term plan to get the economy of Britain, and the North East, working again.

We are creating more jobs by backing small business and enterprise with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes.

Already there are thirteen thousand more businesses in the North East than there were three years ago.

We’ve cut Labour’s jobs taxes to make it easier for those businesses to create jobs.

That means more jobs for young people, as well as greater prosperity for the entire region.

Once young people find work they now get to keep more of their income as well. By raising the level at which people start to pay income tax we’ve taken 2.4 million of the lowest earners out of tax altogether.

Ed Miliband used to claim that a million jobs would be lost under this government – but in fact the private sector has created 1.6 million new jobs. Our plan is working.

We’re also making reforms to schooling to increase young people’s skills.

Under Labour, rampant grade inflation meant their GCSEs and A Levels did little to help them get a job.

We’re reforming exams so that young people gain an education that is actually worth something to employers.

At the same time we’ve created 1.5 million new apprenticeships so that people can learn while they work.

By giving young people decent skills we can help them get jobs, and get jobs that pay well. It’s a long term plan for the future.

The signs are encouraging. There are seven and a half thousand more young people off Job Seekers Allowance in the North East than a year ago. We’re committed to getting even more get off benefits and on to that important first step of adult life.

The economic damage Labour did to the economy caused unforgivable harm to the life chances of young people. Even now they offer only short term gimmicks that would do more harm than good. Young people deserve better than that.

Our long term economic plan is working and young people are working for a secure future once again. Let’s stick to the plan.

Journalists

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Business Editor
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