Union line up to condemn the government as unemployment reaches 17-year high

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The coalition was accused of condemning ‘a lost generation of young people’ to the dole queue, as youth unemployment reached 1.016 million.

As today’s unemployment figures soared to a 17-year high, unions lined up to criticise the government, with Unite calling on ministers to create ‘a land bridge of opportunity’ for young people between leaving university and college, and entering the world of work.

The unemployment rate for young people, aged 16-24, broke through the one million barrier in September. The total jobless figure was 2,620,000.

General Secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘The government has created a lost generation of young people unable to gain a foothold on the employment ladder.’

‘Ministers need to create a land bridge of opportunity for young people – our youth unemployment rate is twice that of Germany.’

‘It is not only a personal tragedy for the young people concerned, but it is also a waste of talent and potential, so necessary for economic growth, and is sowing the seeds for a whole raft of future social problems.’

‘The government needs to adopt a twin-track policy – having more targeted measures to help young people into work, while at the same time, reversing the hardline austerity measures that have sucked the life out of the British economy.’

‘One way forward would be to ensure that a greater percentage of apprenticeships should go to those aged under the age of 25.’

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Today’s milestone of more than a million young people being out of work is the true mark of the government’s economic strategy.

“Government plans to offer cut-price work experience are a woefully inadequate response. The Prime Minister must stop the risk of losing a generation to unemployment and under achievement by guaranteeing a job or high quality training to every young person out of work for six months.

“But the UK’s jobs crisis is not confined to youngsters. Overall unemployment is now rising at a rate not seen since the worst days of the recession. And wage rises are falling at a faster rate than inflation.

“Rather than using the Eurozone as an excuse for our mounting economic troubles, the government should be using it to change course. The 2.6 million people out of work is the clearest sign yet that self-defeating austerity is not working.”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “These shocking figures on youth unemployment come at a time when the Government is inflicting severe cuts on 16-19 education.  Sixth form colleges and school sixth forms will see funding cut by close to 20 per cent, as shown last month by independent research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

“With these cuts, alongside the axing of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) and the astronomical cost of university tuition fees, the government is attacking student life chances, social mobility and economic prospects.

“The Coalition must put reducing youth unemployment at the centre of the political agenda. We need to see practical support and help for students such as vocational training and apprenticeships that are linked to guaranteed employment for those who complete them.

“It is a disgrace that it is almost as expensive to keep a young person out of work as it is to create a job for them. Young people are the future. Politicians must bear in mind that what they sow now they will reap at future elections.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “The millions of workers without jobs face a miserable Christmas and a bleak New Year. For all the economic problems in other parts of Europe the number of young people out of work is far higher in the UK than on other parts of Europe  and is three times higher than in Germany.

“Instead of attacking pensions and employment rights and making it easier to sack people the government should be pursuing policies to create jobs  which is something it is failing miserably to do. Where are all the jobs that were promised to make up from the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the public sector?”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, said: “Youth unemployment hits one million at a time when young people’s access to education is being restricted. In order to help young people we need to be bringing in policies that encourage them get on, not erecting financial barriers to education.

“Aside from the financial cost of consigning hundreds of thousands of people to the dole queue, we risk producing a generation with few prospects and little chance to alter their situation.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “With unemployment shooting up again, and the number of young people out of work breaking through one million, ministers continue to blame others and the situation in Europe for their own economic incompetence.

“To arrest this devastating rise in youth unemployment, the government must start creating proper jobs and opportunities, instead of cutting them. Unpaid work placements are no substitute.

“The figures show the civil service is losing 8,000 jobs a month. While the focus of the public sector strike on 30 November is inevitably on pensions, our union is also striking over these job cuts which – as we have seen recently in the UK Border Agency – are hitting public services hard.

“In so-called ‘protected’ areas of the public sector, 26,000 jobs have gone in the NHS in the last quarter and 16,000 in education. A quarter of a million public sector jobs have been cut in the past two years.

“In this context, it makes absolutely no economic sense to be cutting benefit staff in the Department for Work and Pensions and closing jobcentres. These plans must be reversed immediately.”

ATL head of pay, pensions and conditions Martin Freedman said: “It is all too convenient for the government to blame the truly appalling youth unemployment figures on the Eurozone crisis, but it is this coalition government’s policies and paucity of thought have led to more than one young person in five being without a job.

“By cutting the education maintenance allowance (EMA) the government has stopped young people from less well-off homes being able to afford to stay in education.  The government’s sole policy for dealing with youth unemployment, increasing apprenticeships, is clearly in trouble given the lack of economic growth.   And next year the huge increase in student fees will undoubtedly put many young people off going on to university.

“The government should stop blaming someone else for our economic problems and start supporting our young people into jobs and education”


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