By Valentina Magri
In the 1950s a group of post-World War II writers came together to establish a youth movement known as The Beat Generation. They rejected standards and materialism and appreciated style, innovation, drugs and Eastern religion. In today’s world, the beat generation has been replaced by The Beaten Generation.
According to ILO figures cited by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at Stanford University last February: There are over 200 million people looking for work across the globe, 75 million of these are young people, eager to take the first firm foothold in the ladder of success. We cannot allow them to become a ‘lost’ generation. The Financial Times calls them class of the crunch, while the universities minister David Willets prefers to define them pinched generation. For me, the misfortunes of British youth make them the Beaten Generation.
Jobs for British youth
According to a McKinsey & Co. study, Education to Employment: Getting Europe’s youth into Work conducted in late 2013, there were 940,000 unemployed youngsters aged 16-24, a 21 per cent youth unemployment rate. Almost one in three has been unemployed for more than a year. Young men are more likely to be jobless than women (23 per cent vs. 18 per cent). In addition, youth unemployment rate has been increasing since 2008 and the same goes for involuntary part-time (from 5.3 to 11.5 per cent between 2008 and 2012, according to Eurostat).
OECD warns in Pensions at a Glance 2013 that youngsters having discontinuous and precarious jobs or are receiving a low wage which runs a greater risk of becoming poor when they are older.
Transition from school to work in the UK
The McKinsey study highlights a mismatch between the skills appreciated by businesses and those taught at school. In the UK, only 40 per cent of youngsters believe their post-secondary studies improved their employment opportunities. Moreover, 18 per cent of companies are dissatisfied with the skills of the entry-level employees, whose lack of training triggers significant problems which can be detrimental to business.
The most wanted (and not found) abilities of British companies are soft skills: spoken communication, work ethic, teamwork, problem solving and analysis. Concerning shortage, another problem is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills scarcity. Why? To start with, there is a problem of communication between employers and education providers. Despite communication in the UK being more frequent than in the rest of Europe (78 per cent of employees communicate with providers several times a year or more frequently), only in 39 cases out of 100 the communication is effective.
Another problem is career advice: fewer than a third of young people think they received sufficient information on field of study and on job opportunities (respectively 23 and 20 per cent). Further, work placements are more difficult to find in the UK with respect to the other surveyed countries: only 45 per cent of vocational students and 33 per cent of academic ones reported to undertake work placements.
The good news is that the situation is gradually improving in vocational courses. The bad news is that there is a social stigma against them: only 12 per cent of Brits attend post-secondary vocational education while more than four times this number enrol to university.
Youngsters and politics
British politicians and youngsters do not care for each other. In last budget by Mr Osborne, there is no measure addressed to youngsters, even though they are having many troubles in finding both a job and a house, given the overheating of the housing market and the lower wages than before the crisis.
The low wages causes problems also to the Government: in March, Ministers estimated that around 45 per cent of university graduates will not earn enough to repay their students loans. Despite this, Osborne’s budget is targeted to old pensioners. According to The Guardian, the reason is rather simple: Because older people vote – 76 per cent last time – and more vote Tory.
A recent Ipsos MORI research confirms this view. The study compares Y Generation (Brits under 30) with Pre War Generation (adults over 66), Baby Boomers (adults aged 45-65) and Generation X (adults aged 31-44). The disappointment of youngsters with politics is clear: just 20 per cent of Generation Y supports a political party, the lower percentage among different generations. The same goes when asked about the Welfare State: younger Brits disagree with a higher spending on welfare benefits for the poor. Their dislike of the contributory nature of Welfare is probably due to the fact that they perceive that they will not enjoy the same benefits of older people when they will be old: a symptom of the breakdown of the generational contract.
What was once the Beat Generation has been replaced by The Beaten Generation. A generation whose beat is somewhat different due to the Great Recession, but especially to the breakdown of the generational contract.