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Why has George Osborne got it in for young people?

3 min read

In reaction to Wednesday's Budget speech, Jeremy Corbyn MP says 'don’t liberate tomorrow’s adults by cutting young people’s life chances today.'


Young people were again hit hard by the Chancellor in yesterday’s Budget announcements: with attacks on their wages, benefits and student grants.

But the central lie being told is much deeper: it’s that all this pain is so as not to burden future generations with debt. 

This is a nonsense argument – you don’t liberate tomorrow’s adults by cutting young people’s life chances today. 

Youth unemployment remains high at 16.1% - still significantly higher than the pre-crash 13.8%, which was in itself unacceptable. With the youth rate of unemployment benefit to be frozen at the pitiful rate of £57.90 per week, the depression of being without work is compounded by the poverty rate of benefits.

Those young people are being denied opportunities because of cut-backs in the further education budget, and by failed workfare programmes than punish rather than help. It is indignity heaped upon indignity.

For those who do manage to find a job, they are at the sharp end of exploitation: over-represented in unpaid internships, low quality apprenticeships and traineeships, and on zero hours contracts.

Young workers are to be excluded from George Osborne’s increase in the minimum wage – it is not a living wage at all – so they will continue to be exploited by the most unscrupulous employers with the consent of government. 

This generation faces the first decades of their life being unable to find a stable home, due to the out of control housing crisis. Acutely in London, but also in many other cities across the country, young people struggle to afford to rent, and buying their own home seems like a far off fantasy.

We should be capping rents not benefits, and building council homes for young people. While the Conservatives cut back on young people’s access to housing support, Labour should extend access. 

When Labour gets back into power in 2020, we will end the subsidies to wealthy landlords and give the right to buy to private tenants (many of whom are young people). Housing is a right, amassing wealth is not.

By ending the tax reliefs to private landlords we could fund right to buy discounts for private tenants. 

For those young people who have been through university and can expect higher wages, they will be saddled with unprecedented levels of debts that in many cases won’t be repaid and so won’t provide any extra funding.

For those young people though the debt interest and repayments will destroy their ability to save for a deposit and the time when they look to start a family. 

It is a limited and individualist mind that sees education as a source of personal advancement. It is a collective good that helps us all, our society and our economy. 

That’s why tuition fees and the accompanying debilitating debt should be abolished.

It's not just young people, the Tories seem to have a problem with children too and are now proposing to punish the third born onwards in any family. 

This is at variance with every piece of decency in society that all children matter equally, and rather at odds with the spirit of the UN conventions on the Rights of the Child, which even Margaret Thatcher signed in 1989.

There is a choice for the Labour party and for Britain. Our young people cannot afford another government letting them down and taking away opportunities. 

It is estimated that half of all young people didn’t vote at the last election. To some politicians that means they are an easy target for cuts and their interests can be ignored.

That is the calculation that George Osborne made yesterday.Labour must take a different path: showing young people that we are on their side, and giving them something to vote for.

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