#GE2017: Why this election matters so much to young people
If you’re under 25, this election matters because it is about securing your future. A massive 2.4m young people are currently missing from the voter register, more than enough votes to swing the election outcome drastically in any direction they chose. We know that turnout for 18-24 year olds has tumbled in recent elections from 60% in 2001 to 40% in 2010. Research also indicates that the UK has the lowest youth turnout from all of the old 15 European Union members.
That’s pretty appalling. Obviously, that’s not to say that young people don’t care. From community volunteering to online activism and direct action, younger people are often very engaged in their communities and in politics in a wider sense.
But the ramifications of the low election turnout amongst young voters are serious, as their voice is seen by many to carry less weight if it comes with fewer votes attached. Young people have been impacted disproportionately by cuts in public spending, the abolishment of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the tripling of University tuition fees, and the removal of housing benefit.
We’re failing the UK’s young workers in particular – here’s how:
Low pay is still hammering young people
Why do we care about low pay? Because low pay is not just about making things hard in the present. It can have a scarring effect on later working life. If low pay becomes a permanent state then households will struggle to service their debts.
The TUC has been studying the lives of the 3.5m young workers, aged 21-30, who form the backbone of our economy. They overwhelmingly work in shops, warehouses, care homes, cafes, pubs, restaurants and hotels, and have incomes of less than £10.26 an hour.
Despite their growing qualifications, young workers today are relatively worse off than previous generations. Pay is no longer rewarding people for committing to further education as it once did.
Unpaid internships are an outrageous example of exploitation. While the number of adverts for internships is proliferating, little is being done to regulate them. Using internships and bogus ‘volunteer’ jobs means employers can recruit high-skilled young people on the cheap. But they are also often restricted to a privileged few, with the best opportunities in many professions in effect reserved for those with connections and the financial means to subsidise low-paid insecure work.
Insecure work is becoming the norm for the young
Young people are further disadvantaged in today’s economy because they make up the largest group in many forms of insecure work.
For instance, those aged between 16 and 24 are most likely to be working on a zero hours contract or in an agency or casual work. Young people on zero-hour contracts mainly work in accommodation and food, health and social work, transport, arts and other services.
Insecurity is becoming normalised thanks to the emergence of the ‘gig economy’, whereby work is becoming a commodity, and young workers become a ‘service’, provided just in time and compensated on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. These poor quality jobs mean young people risk missing out on key workplace rights and protections, and facing lower pay and income insecurity.
Too many apprenticeships are low-quality and exploitative
A good apprenticeship is a valuable route to gaining skills and a better job. However, evidence suggests that more than 30% of apprentices are not completing their training, which may be due to them receiving poor quality courses. This includes low pay or a poor learning experience. More worryingly, apprentices are also not being paid fairly, a report shows that 30% of 16-18 year olds were receiving below the Apprenticeship NMW, an increase of 5% since 2014. The statistics are starker for disadvantaged groups, which indicates that in 2014-15 just 62% (around three-fifths) of young black women successfully completed their training, compared with (66%) of Asian and (79%) White apprentices. These dwindling completion rates suggest that too many apprenticeships are not decent quality and that workplace discrimination is preventing underrepresented groups achieve their qualifications.
This election matters to young people
The election will decide who forms the government for the next five years. The government sets the minimum standards for internships, apprenticeships, job security and many other important facets of working life. In short, the outcome of this election will affect the future quality of many young people’s working lives. Voting in the General Election is a big decision which young people shouldn’t ignore or take lightly. Get informed and get involved, after all, it’s about #securingyourfuture on pay, decent jobs and social mobility.