Annoyed. Frustrated. Tired. Stressed. Confused. Depressed. And most of all, useless. These are terms some young people have used to describe their feelings of being unemployed. One young person added, “There isn’t much you can do without a constant income”, while another went further to say, “It felt like I couldn’t do anything”.
In this struggling economic climate, when the population is living longer and technology is overtaking some job roles, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to land a job. And once they do land a job, they then face the issue of actually keeping it or trying to progress up the career ladder.
According to parliament.uk’s youth unemployment statistics, 16.9% of 16-24 year olds were unemployed in September to November 2014. Although the figure decreased by 3.2 percentage points from the previous year, it did increase by 0.9 percentage points from the previous quarter. However, these statistics probably do not tell the full story, as some young people are likely to have fallen through the cracks of the system.
I am one of those statistics, signing on every other Monday, just so that I can receive a little income to contribute to my family home. Signing on was never part of my initial life plan (I should have graduated and be working with a fashion company right now) and I hate doing it, but I cannot seem to find a job, despite my education or experience. This is often the case for numerous other young people.
My 19-year-old sister is currently unemployed. She previously held a temporary retail position at House of Fraser, which she struggled to get even with a retail qualification. What is worse is that she is now struggling to find another retail job, despite having experience under her belt to go alongside her qualification. “You want to find a job and you have the experience, but it’s never enough experience or the right experience,” she said.
However, one of the biggest obstacles facing young jobseekers is trying to get paid work. Don’t get me wrong, volunteering is great and work experience is an invaluable, necessary stepping stone for many job roles. Yet too many individuals want something for nothing, or they would gladly pay you a pittance.
There are now regular debates and reports on the issue of unpaid internships and why they should be stopped. I even had a company who was offering me an unpaid internship ask if I would be able to arrange for the job centre to pay my travel expenses, which was what they were supposed to be offering.
Although internships serve as a stepping stone into a particular industry, don’t young people deserve to earn just a little something? My sister said, “I don’t see why we should have to work for free. It’s not fair… A job is never guaranteed.”
In their desperation to find a job, young people find themselves being forced into roles that they hate or may make them unhappy. It is as if they are brainwashed into believing that their lives amount to finding a job, which seems to be a central ethos for the Job Centre. Charlene*, 22, said: “Being on JSA [Job Seekers Allowance] is incredibly stressful and soon it’s like you spend more time trying to please the job centre than actually finding a job.”
Although employment is important, should it come at the cost of the happiness and/or emotional well-being of young people, who are already faced with a number of other issues.
Being unemployed – particularly for a long period of time – can be one of the toughest and most demeaning things, especially when prices are constantly rising and we are taught that getting a job is the main goal in life.
More needs to be done to get young people into sufficient employment and greater support (particularly emotional support) is essential. The government talks about it, but they don’t seem to be doing enough and the job centre is not always effective.
“I think signing on makes it worse, because you’re reminded all the time that you don’t have a job and no matter how hard you look, you’re constantly told it’s not enough” says Charlene.
Thousands of young people are striving to find employment, after countless job applications and/or numerous years of studying, but they continue to find themselves in the same position. It gradually chips away at their confidence and self-esteem, as they start to lose the passion they once had.
Seeking employment eventually becomes a game of, ‘Who will give me a chance’ or ‘Who will be willing to see my potential’, leaving young people feeling annoyed, frustrated, tired, confused, depressed and useless. It needs to come to an end.
*Name has been changed
Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.