Almost one million young people in Britain are out of work. But never fear, employment minister Chris Grayling is determined to get to grips with the crisis. Why, a full 5% of them are to be guaranteed a job interview. At some point in the next two years, anyway. No rush then, mate.
If it sounds like I am taking this personally, that’s because I am. My experience as a long term unemployed youth in the early Thatcher period is a more important component of my socialism that the bookcase full of heavy duty theoretical works that dominates my living room.
You can still meet people from my generation that lost contact with society in the 1980s – not that the Tories of the period admitted that society existed in the first place, of course – and never managed to reinsert themselves.
Most NEETs find that their lives never recover. Those without a job at an age when those destined for the glittering prizes have already come down from Oxbridge – that is the term, isn’t it? – and are starting out in the City and the media may never secure a well-paid permanent position.
Some of them don’t even get to live much longer. One study conducted in the north of England found 15% of under-25s not in work or at college in 1999 were dead just ten years later. With time on your hands, the drift into drugs, crime, unhealthy lifestyles and depression becomes almost automatic.
Whatever happens to the British economy next, nobody believes that we are in for a dramatic spurt in growth that makes up for lost ground and then takes us further forward. Even the more optimistic prognoses suggest we are in for a decade of stagnation, which means that those NEETed now may well end up being NEETed permanently.
To uphold a ‘guaranteed interview’ – not a guaranteed job, but a guaranteed interview – for a small minority of the young men and women who are now out of work smacks of a complacenct joke on the part of the social class that never has to sign on. It isn’t enough.