At every new publication of the UK job figures unemployment amongst young people of 16-24 seems to be rising. Government schemes to offer work experience to young people on benefits have earned derision in the press with young people working up to 30 hours a week, stacking shelves for places like Tesco and making no money at all. While many rightly deplore the idea that profit-making companies like Tesco, Poundland and Sainsburys should benefit from free labour by young people claiming public benefits the political debate has invariably turned negative, questioning whether young people today ‘know the meaning of work’ or are ‘job snobs’, eschewing perfectly reasonable jobs which are ‘beneath them’ or only a bus ride away.
As a young jobseeker I find it hard to take these comments seriously. I have both volunteered and worked in paid employment and in each domain I noticed how the people of my own age were far better at turning up on time and going the extra mile than the older workers whose positions were either more secure or who were not relying upon the experience gained to propel them into the job-market. To say that today’s youngsters have less of an understanding of work than their parents or grandparents is unthinking and patronising. Unlike their parents or grandparents, many young jobseekers today are in the unfortunate position of being forced to work for no money at all before they can hope of finding a proper job.