A recent survey showed that hundreds of thousands of young people in the UK feel they have no reason to stay alive. In a YouGov poll for the Prince’s Trust, one in 10 said they had “nothing to live for”. Urgent action must be taken to prevent the young jobless becoming the young hopeless, the Trust said. The government commented that it was doing “everything possible” to help young people find work. But are young people in the UK losing out economically and politically?

A recent study from The Intergenerational Fairness Index suggests the prospects of younger people have “nose-dived” since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. The index uses official statistics to compare different generations’ stakes in key areas from income and employment to housing, pensions and education.

A major financial problem for young people is house prices. London prices have risen 10% in just a year, taking the average property price to a staggering £438,000. Most young people looking to buy property in London can hope, at best, to pay an extortionate amount for a glorified shoebox.

…expressed concerns about the number of people being encouraged into work via unpaid full-time volunteering…

Let’s take the prospect many students face: low-paid or “voluntary” internships. It seems that too often graduates find these experiences to be unrewarding and even exploitative. A Low Pay Commission report published in March 2010 expressed concerns about the number of people being encouraged into work via unpaid full-time volunteering. Concern is growing that young people are increasingly being used to cut costs by performing basic administration and other entry-level jobs.

So I think we can ignore the ill-informed whines solely blaming young people for having a poor work ethic, a culture of entitlement, and all that rubbish. The UK’s ageing electorate means that we, as young people, have increasingly little sway over influencing policies that will impact most upon our lives. Part of the problem is that not many young people vote. IPPR researchers found that in the 2013 local elections, an estimated 32% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 72% of those aged over 65. Is our solution just to try and get more young people to vote?

…it stressed the importance of speaking out…

It seems that many are torn between voting for a party they hope will bring change, and not voting at all because they actively reject all the representatives on offer. This is reflected in Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Russell Brand, which became an internet hit. Brand’s comment that he doesn’t bother voting because it doesn’t change anything, I suspect resonated with a lot of young people. I’m not a huge fan of Brand, but I’m glad he sparked the debate, because it stressed the importance of speaking out. Nothing will change if we encourage a state of cynical detachment or fatalistic resignation; but, if our opinions and grievances are heard, it will at least make sure we are not passed off as politically apathetic and indifferent to real social and political change.

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