I watched an interesting debate on Newsnight last night, on the subject of youth unemployment. It made me wonder whether the UK Government was becoming ageist, especially when it comes to employment policies. Apart from the spectacle of the Employment
Minister taking every opportunity to repeat the irritating and untrue mantra that, unlike the Tories in the past, this Government wasn’t going to ‘abandon’ Britain’s youth (typical Labour approach; repeat something endlessly, to try and get it established
as ‘fact’), I was left with the feeling that HMG is sailing very close to becoming institutionally ageist when it comes to their policies to address unemployment.
They seem to have developed a focus on those aged between 16 and 24, and leave me with the impression that this is the absolute priority. They say a lot about the need to get this band into work, and of course recently trumpeted a policy that said anyone
under 25 that was out of work for 12 months would be guaranteed either work, or some form of free training. This is a great commitment (if they could only deliver it, and if the 'training' eventually leads to a job), and entirely right as a means to help
people, but what about the rest of the population?
Of course, it is vital that people in this age group are able to get a job, and see that there is a future for them, but the same is true of anyone who becomes unemployed. In fact, is there not a case for saying that older people, burdened with a mortgage,
loans and probably a family to support, should be the highest priority? The majority of young people are probably still at home, still able to call to some extent on their parents for support (okay, I know this isn’t true for all of them), and they are unlikely
to have the financial and practical obligations that older people have. Shouldn’t we be focusing instead on those people who have these obligations?
One final observation on the debate (apart from the Minister’s irritating mantra) was that, for all he said about the shedloads of money being put into this, he clearly didn’t understand that it was probably being targeted wrongly; the two young people on
the debate seemed to me to have better ideas, and some very pithy comments on what was in place so currently. I didn’t get the impression that they were being listened to properly. That would be a pity, because it's those that are using a process that are
normally best placed to comment on its effectiveness...