The culture of youth unemployment

With ‘unemployment’ practically a household name across the UK, it’s hardly surprising that youth unemployment figures have risen yet again to a rather impressive 1.2 million. It would seem that the concept of earning real money to provide for yourself and your family isn’t as enticing as the benefits you could ‘earn’ if you stayed away from the job centre.

A culture seems to have emerged from the past where young people brought up by parents who never worked feel that it’s acceptable for them to do the same. You could lead a life of luxury on the maximum amount of weekly benefits available (£500 per week), and this would certainly challenge a week’s worth of national minimum wage. What more could you want?

In addition to this, the publicity surrounding increased tuition fees and retirement ages isn’t exactly an advertisement for a life-long career; even those already in work have to re-assess their priorities each time the pension schemes face instability. There has never been a lack of job vacancies available to our generation if you look hard enough; the problem is that there isn’t enough support, persuasion or motivation to get people working from the start.

Agreed, there are people in the UK who genuinely cannot keep a job and receive benefits because they need to. It was never suggested otherwise. However, there are more and more young people who use the unemployment figure as an excuse to sit around all day, watching daytime TV and doing little else, because this is what society has allowed.

Now a fifth of people aged 16-24 are unemployed. Surely we should be increasing the number of opportunities available to those who do want to work, rather than increasing the number of benefits available to those who don’t. Few companies will want to employ someone who has nothing to show on their C.V. for the last five years. If we don’t at least attempt to amend these statistics within the next few years, it is guaranteed that youth unemployment will have a long-term effect on the national economy because, let’s face the facts, no country can keep over a million people on benefits for life.


  1. I can only assume this should be read as a parody of Richard Littlejohn.

    “There has never been a lack of job vacancies available to our generation if you look hard enough.”

    You can’t just say that and have nothing to back it up with. It comes across as very ignorant.

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  2. 24 Nov ’11 at 7:14 pm

    Mega Feminist

    “With ‘unemployment’ practically a household name across the UK”

    What does that even mean? Really? No wonder bloody Vision won the award.

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  3. 24 Nov ’11 at 7:31 pm

    Peter O'Hanra-Hanrahan

    Given that this article is so laden with assumptions (not to mention being economical with the facts), it’s a surprise that the author has the balls to deride her peers as being lazy. What a total shower.

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  4. Absolutely mindless dross.

    It’s a wonder why Nouse is the only campus media outlet not to win a major award in the last two years…

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  5. I think you’re right that we need to increase opportunities available to people who want to work, and that theoretically the money that pays people’s benefits would be better directed if used to create new jobs. But I have problems with the rest of the article. It’s wrong to generalise that most young unemployed people are in that situation because of a combination of laziness and the attractiveness of benefits. And it’s factually incorrect to say there have always been enough job vacancies. Simply not the case. There are not enough jobs currently. What we’re experiencing isn’t an epidemic of laziness, it’s what is effectively a recession, or even a depression if you believe some economists, meaning businesses don’t want to hire – and if they do, they want people to have lots of experience. More public sector jobs have been scrapped recently than the private sector ones created.

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  6. Clearly the author of this article has no idea what it’s like to be unemployed. It’s not all rainbows and ‘free’ money, you know. As a graduate currently without permanent employment, I’m disappointed to learn that the reason that I’m currently without a job isn’t because of a massive unemployment (with more to come!), a dire economic environment and a massive imbalance of geographic employment prospects around the country, it’s just because I’m lazy and obviously enjoy claiming benefits.

    Perhaps if the author of this article actually understood what they were writing about, rather than patronising people, this would have made a considered and thoughtful article. I sincerely hope that the author doesn’t find herself unemployed or claiming jobseeker’s allowance in the future, because she’s going to get a rude awakening if she imagines it’s an enjoyable position to be in.

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  7. I am pretty disappointed to read this crap in Nouse, usually if I disagree with a article I can at least find merits in the way it was written and acknowledge the points the author was trying to make. This is really just inane uneducated ranting that I would expect in a Daily Mail forum. Some of what you say here shows a incredible amount of ignorance and if you truly believe what you have written here then you’ll be in for a unpleasant shock when you leave the bubble of university. Lets have a break down of why this article is stupid:

    ‘A culture seems to have emerged from the past where young people brought up by parents who never worked feel that its acceptable for them to do the same’. This line is pretty irrelevant when it comes to university students, particularly as York university students tend to come from comfortable middle class backgrounds. You are highly unlikely to find a student at a top university who comes from a chav family who have lived of benefits all their lives. For example, I graduated this year from York with a 2.1 in Economics, I spent two months on JSA gaining around 50 quid a week. Therefore, I was hardly living the life of riley with 500 quid a week (which is the ridiculous figure you stated). Those gaining 500 quid are a rarity and usually have about seven disabled children living in London, they’re not exactly common cases in general and that entire line is irrelevant to the plight of young people.

    You say ‘there has never been a lack of job vacancies available to our generation if you look hard enough’. I think you’ll find when you graduate you’re in for a nasty surprise. In my local area you’ll find jobs for young people are few and far in between, unless I want to drive forklifts, clean offices or become a chef, I was struggling to find work through my local job centre. Many entry level jobs are asking for a high level of experience, for example, I found a administration job which paid £12,000 a year but the employers want at least 3 years administration experience. If I had substantial experience in administration I would hope to have at least progressed beyond minimum wage by that point.

    Although I am not disagreeing there is a problem with benefits culture for some people within society, this article completely misses the problems concerning youth unemployment and fails to explains high youth unemployment in other countries as well. To be honest, I think you should re write this article with some statistics, government reports or anything that backs up what you say, then at least you can argue a point rather than just miss the point completely.

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  8. If it’s possible for a young unemployed person to volunteer locally, then I think that’s what they should be doing while they’re looking for a job.

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  9. Can’t believe how awful this article is….

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  10. Someone whose claiming thousands worth of state benefits every term in the form of student ‘loans’ lecturing people in the world of work that it’s their own idleness that’s keeping them out of work…. And you wonder why we students get a bad name.

    The premise of this article is just plain stupid…go to a recruitment agent and they’ll tell you the bleak story about job opportunities…. THERE ARE NONE.

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  11. 26 Nov ’11 at 5:01 pm

    Alex Slingsby

    After having read the constructive criticism given to me, I feel the need to justify my point on the matter once more.

    I used the phrase ‘With ‘Unemployment’ practically a household name’ to insinuate that unemployment is so prevalent in the UK now, nobody is surprised to find out that the amount of unemployed people has risen yet again.

    I never suggested that the jobs available were paid jobs when I mentioned that there are jobs everywhere ‘if you look hard enough’. My view on this is that there are volunteering opportunities everywhere to be had, including temporary positions at firms to help you set yourself up in the business. At the end of the day, even if you do graduate with a first in Law or Medicine, that doesn’t mean that you are going to establish yourself as a leading practitioner from day one. The majority of graduates that I know were unemployed for a year or so, volunteering in similar areas of work to their degree, before getting ‘a big break’ in the business.

    Also, coming from a working-class background myself (and managing to get into such a supposedly middle-class elitist university), I know many people who feel that they have been let down by the system because there is not enough information on volunteering/temporary/part time opportunities available to them.

    I have also not used the word ‘lazy’ in this article because the majority of the unemployed are not lazy. As a few of you have said yourself, there are graduates in unemployment. However, it is not unheard of to go and find yourself a small job to keep yourself out of JSA while you wait for the job you came to university for. Or voluntary work… Many people have done it in the past, and nobody thought any less of them because of it.

    I used the figure of £500 a week because that is what the government have now set as the limit to benefits per household per week. I never used it as a JSA guideline or implied that this was what you could earn instead of working.

    Agreed, I have only worked in part-time employment up until this stage in my life, but I have also been made redundant from a job in the past. I immediately started searching for a replacement job and found one withing the following months. It was temporary work but a job nonetheless.

    Finally, a recruitment agent would be out of a job if there were no job opportunities to promote.

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  12. Is this a joke? I would be able to take this more seriously if there was some factual evidence backing up the inane, prejudiced vitriol- but all we get is ignorant ranting that may as well have been copy and pasted from a Daily Mail article. You don’t expect such uninformed rubbish from a university newspaper.

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  13. I’m sorry, what? This article is ridiculous in more ways than way. For instance, I didn’t know because the government capped benefits at £500 then that meant it was a reasonable figure to use in this article? Maybe that’s to tackle individuals who are entitled to various benefit schemes. They’re likely to have kids, some sort of a disability, live in expensive accommodation and so on. Students earning £70 a peek from the JSA don’t really fall under the remit of those having cushty lives on the dole.

    I’m surprised to see such poor use of evidence from a York student truth be told. Genuinely disappointed, not annoyed. My friends to the right of the political spectrum wouldn’t ever say anything like this. This appears to be what happens when we go down on the league tables!

    I can see how this article would irritate a 3rd year beyond belief. Believe it or not, individuals need a source of income in their lives. Just telling people to volunteer as if they don’t have to pay for rent, bills, food and other living expenses is an utterly ridiculous idea and just shows the author’s own ignorance on this matter. You’ll change your mind on this soon enough, don’t you worry.

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  14. There are 0.5m job vacancies to over 2.5m people unemployed. Saying ‘there are jobs around’ ignores the fundamental facts that there are no where near enough jobs for everyone – and the ones that do exist are largely underpaid, on temporary contracts or part-time. This article reeks of right-wing prejudice, and sounds just like the rantings of someone whose only contact with the working-class is through Jeremy Kyle and not actually visiting the estates that your no doubt idol Margaret Thatcher destroyed in the 1980s. If we want to end youth unemployment, there needs to be real investment, not hatred of young people.

    Nouse should chuck this writer off its team. Poorly written, poorly argued. Zero evidence. Neoliberal bile, frankly.

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  15. Just worth mentioning that the comments above are completely discredited when you start referring to the author’s views on the issue rather than the actual problem.

    Also, by suggesting that the only contact the author has with the working class is through Jeremy Kyle, the above comment has single-handedly completely undermined an entire social class. In any case, the author has already mentioned that she is working class which would mean that she does have ‘contact’ with the people arguably most affected by unemployment.

    Not that I agree with the author herself, but it has certainly sparked a debate.

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  16. I personally have no problem with this article and think that those moaning about the article about not being able to find jobs should stop slagging off people on a website, get off their bums and get into town to look for a job! Like Alex has said, volunteering is a way to make yourself more employable therefore I take my hat off to young people like Alex who get involved in activities (such as journalism) that can help them to gain experience which will help in the future when looking for a job. Yes volunteering isn’t a sustainable lifestyle as it is unpaid and does not pay the bills but employers are impressed by people that have a proactive approach to life.

    I agree that there aren’t many jobs out there, but there are some. I’m not saying that all people are too fussy but I think some of the young population today are guilty of being too picky when it comes to jobs. If you’re that desperate for cash then get a bar job a few nights a week or work on a farm where there’s always a need for more help. Get yourself out there, find the right contacts and see where it takes you. For example, get to know the managers of the main bars in town and there’s plenty of opportunities open to you from promotion to flyering to bar work.

    In all honesty I think it’s disgusting to generalise all the working-class as characters that have been on Jeremy Kyle. It does not matter what your background is, there are still opportunities out there and I think it is unfair to suggest firing a student for doing their job – at least she’s doing something which her time which is more than can be said for some people.

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  17. 28 Nov ’11 at 2:47 pm

    Anon. Bystander

    She’s merely saying what is on the lips of many people in this country at the moment.

    Young people are so protective over their fellow young’uns, we can’t possibly be lazy! Surely not!

    The article touches upon the desperate need for welfare reform, instead of allowing (correctly or incorrectly in terms of fact) people to ‘sit around all day’, make them work and volunteer and help out in community projects in order to claim their benefits. This acts as a cv builder as much as a get off your arse builder.

    The essence of this article is extremely sensible, if not slightly offensively put. Bravo Alex, for speaking against the grain!

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  18. @Robert Green

    While I may not completely agree with this article (which doesn’t seem to be the author’s intention anyway), I find some of these comments hard to believe, or even read for that matter.

    To be quite honest, I’m really not surprised that you had a lot of difficulty in finding a job after University due to your uppity, egoistic attitude.

    You complain that there are “few jobs” for young people but then shun the possibility of you driving forklifts, cleaning offices or becoming a chef. You clearly view yourself as above this. I’m not suggesting that you should make one of these your lifelong career, yet surely working for two months, while still looking for a graduate career to suit your abilities and interests, would be better than claiming JSA for two months just because you feel above many jobs.

    You also assume that York University students are all from middle class families with plenty of money. While this may apply to you it certainly isn’t true for everyone else. I am a student at York and I have a part time job as it is hard for me to get by on my loan alone. Just because you probably spent your uni life with a comfortable income, doesn’t mean that every York Uni student does. Therefore I find it insulting that you feel above traditionally working class jobs when you have no previous employment to justify this.

    When you left University were you honestly expecting employers to be fighting over you? Maybe if you adjusted your attitude and became more willing to get your hands dirty, you would be much more successful in gaining employment.

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  19. I’m not sure many of you get it. With employment expected to reach 3 million by the end of next year – employment opportunities simply are not available for everyone.

    Simply telling everyone to go out and get experience to impress employers does not, in any way, solve that problem. The value of your experience is relative to that of other individuals and if everyone went out and got a certain level of experience, you’re not competitive anymore. I hope that clarifies this argument that it’s all about impressing employers.

    Employers don’t decide to award more jobs based on a higher number of quality applicants. They have set employment numbers that reflect their growth strategies. For instance, multinational A has set the number of people it employs

    Those of who think simply getting experience solves the employment issues we’re facing in this country right now appear have a weak argument. Whilst encouraging students to do unpaid work is important – it simply isn’t sustainable. If you can figure out exactly how to pay for everyday expenditure whilst working unpaid, with rising inflationary pressures then I think HM Treasury has a bright young talent waiting to join their ranks.

    Otherwise, you’re in no position to state what graduates should and should not do till you’ve been in that position yourself.

    Bearing in mind, I say this not as someone who lacks employment. I’m a third year who through sheer hard work and a good degree of luck, has a job waiting for once I graduate. Unfortunately – I know people equally as talented as me who are not in my position. They’re not lazy, incompetent or lacking experience. Simply they’re facing an incredibly tough market right now and I don’t think most of you are in a position to make judgements. Have some humility please.

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  20. ‘Otherwise, you’re in no poisition to state what graduates should and shouldn’t do until you’ve been in that position yourself’

    Well, you haven’t been in this situation either, and by the looks of it, you never will.

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  21. … Because, of course, their making a typo on a newspaper comment thread is ample reason to believe that someone’s going to fail their degree.

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  22. @Ben
    To be honest I think you’ve have misread what I was trying to say. I come from one of the poorest districts in London and find it a little patronising for you to make assumptions.

    What I meant by ‘few jobs’ is that no company is willing to train me to drive forklifts or become a chef if they’re well aware I’m not in it for longevity. It takes months and years to train to become a professional chef or fork lift driver, they’re skilled jobs, why would a company spend the money training a graduate if they’re just going to leave. I handed out CVS in several outlets including B&Q where the manager said to me ‘no offense mate but there’s no point me doing all the paperwork and wait for you to leave’. Blunt but true. Why should a company spend thousands training me when they could find someone who would be in it for longevity and make a career out of it?

    York University students do come from middle class backgrounds in the main, if you were to look at the statistics under 10% come from the very poorest families. The majority around 80% come from average to above average households. Whether you like it or not, York is a middle class, predominantly white institution, a chip on your shoulder won’t change that fact. I actually have worked in working class professions all my life from shop work, factory work and yes a bit of cleaning, so I am afraid your assumptions are just wrong.

    I had one glorious month on the JSA and then found some factory work unpacking pens, not glamorous but I did it until I found something better. If you find the fact that I didn’t spend thousands of pounds and three years to handout nightclub leaflets at the age of twenty five then I am afraid you need to get over yourself. Furthermore, I do have a decent job now with an accountancy firm and have been successful in gaining employment, but I thank you for your concern.

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  23. PS.

    Realised that last paragraph was a bit assholey but I was a little annoyed with you making assumptions based upon you misinterpreting what I said.

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  24. I meant that they already had a job sorted out for them when they graduate, through hard work (the point of this argument).

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  25. @Ben

    Your comment was aimed at me. You malicious young man. I have a job lined up once I graduate with a very comfortable starting salary and a bonus that could potentially exceed that salary. So please don’t tell me that I’ll never get a job.

    I don’t really post on these articles but seems like this one’s brought out the nonsense in York. Naivety, lack of manners and an impressive degree of stupidity seem to prevail.

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  26. @Ben

    I realised what you’re trying to say. The difference is – I’m not writing a snide article essentially judging those individuals. I appreciate that I got rejected from the vast majority of the companies which I applied to and a good degree of luck played a role in me gaining employment. I could’ve very easily been in that position. The difference between those who are and are not employed is not huge.

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