It’s hotting up, and the two major party leaders are gearing up for the Election showdown, as this week contention has emerged over youth employability for the future. As evident in a number of policy considerations, the Conservatives are determined to crack down on welfare benefits – and the youth is no exception.
Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed, if returning to office in May, that young people out of work, education or training for more than six months would no longer receive the “job seeker’s allowance”. Instead they would be permitted the “youth allowance” which pays at the same rate, but a mandatory 30 hours a week of community work must be completed alongside job searching before one could claim the amount.
This is seen as a deterring measure, manoeuvring the young away from a mind-set where they can coast along on benefits – all part of the Prime Minister’s long term plan to eradicate youth unemployment.
“I want us to end the idea that aged 18 you can leave school, move out, claim unemployment and housing benefit – this is no life at all. We shouldn’t be offering that choice; you should be earning or learning.”
Cameron is adamant that the young need work experience and the discipline of routine – all must become accustomed to playing their part. You are able to receive help from the State, but you need to give something back at the same time. Teenagers reading this are currently groaning, similar to the sound made when the parents try to remove them from hours of Xbox playing.
Furthermore, the Conservatives have pledged to cap benefits from £26,000 to £23,000 – to fund three million apprenticeships. This cap stems from the thoughts that no one obtaining welfare should be earning more than the average working person.
The overall scheme has been scrutinised by Labour, I bet you didn’t see that coming, as the shadow work and pensions minister, Stephen Timms, states that the proposal will do nothing to get young people into real jobs. Attention was drawn to the government piloting a scheme in London two years ago, without any significant impact on employment.
Cameron may have caught himself in a net, with the community work entailing such projects as providing food for the homeless or working within charities, Labour contends that whilst beneficial for society, these activities would not provide the experience or skills that will better equip the young to obtain a job from employers; and therefore would not tackle the problem of youth unemployment.
Labour has offered prospects for youngsters out of work, by guaranteeing a six-month job. The policy would be paid for by private companies bidding for public sector contracts that would be required to have two year apprenticeships. Money would be diverted from in-house training to these apprenticeships, so as to provide the adequate resources for high level training and management. Money will be devoted from funds set aside for young people who are unemployed for a year, which will be funded by a bankers’ bonus tax.
The rationale behind such a decision is that this format is crucial to boosting productivity. Alongside this, Miliband pledged to offer tax breaks to employers who raise the minimum wage closer to average earnings of £8 by 2020.
The opposing parties champion two hated themes throughout the country – bankers’ bonuses and benefits to those who do not work. Well played, well played.
However, some of the statistics do not fully favour Labour’s discouragement of the current government. Business Secretary Vince Cable conceded that apprenticeships for 16 to 19 year-olds had decreased under the Conservatives, but insisted that more advanced apprenticeships which employers valued had been created. Is this a classic case of less is more?
On the other hand, business leaders gave Labour’s policy a more positive reception, applauding the focus on the importance of high quality apprenticeships, and believing that collectively more can be delivered.
The tone between the two parties is very different, but one similarity is clear – refuse to work under whichever party regime and you will lose money.
By Dre Efthymiou