How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth
By Ed Howker & Shiv Malik
Icon Books – £8.99
‘’There are 1.5 million young people unemployed right now, and the best message the business leaders on that panel could send them is: if you want to work, borrow money you don’t have so we can take your labour free of charge. What a shaming, condescending, ambition-crushing, contemptuous message that sends to a generation brought low by joblessness.’’
So writes the two twenty-something authors Ed Howker and Shiv Malik in chapter two (‘Jobs’) of this ambitious, controversial yet (probably and invariably) highly contestable book, Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth. A book that doesn’t exactly make for the most demure of bedtime reading, but then it’s not really supposed to. Given its subject matter, how could it?
An academic, hard-hitting, polemic of a read, these two hundred and twenty-three pages are filled with angular angst and, depending on what side of the disproportionately ageist fence you find yourself on, an array of bleak and foreboding graphs – all of which tell it as it truly is. But none of which espouse any real solutions.
Indeed, had Messrs. Howker and Malik endeavoured to shed a little light on what ought to have been done over the last twenty or so years – regardless of whatever government – rather than merely homing in on the mistakes, then Jilted Generation might have made for something more of a considered read. As is, it’s a tad lopsided, although relentless in the desolate pursuit of wrongdoing, which, in and of itself, is truly commendable.
Following on from the above quote, the authors write: ‘’[…] young people are being encouraged to work for nothing to provide cover for governments who have failed to equip them for work […]. On average, agency workers earn about 70p for every pound that a permanent worker earns for doing the same job.’’
Whilst living in Brighton, there really was and probably still is, no work to be found. Nothing that is, other than commuting to London, Portsmouth or Hastings everyday, having first spent several months dealing with squeaky, virginal agency staff, with all the chutzpah, intelligence and understanding of a discarded railway sleeper. So yeah, I know full well the difference between being a temporary and a permanent employee – and a whole lot fun it’s most definitely not.
As so many in the workplace have unfortunately discovered to their elongated chagrin, today’s job market is governed by nothing other than profit margins, profit margins and erm, profit margins. As such, there’s no such thing as job security anymore.
As for fairness, forget it.
If you don’t believe me, read this quintessentially brave book – the economic benediction of which, is a tad sobering to say the least: ‘’[…] in the last decade Britain has become the most unequal society in the OECD – more than America, and more unequal than at any time since measurements began.’’