Pretty much everyone agrees that youth unemployment is a scourge of modern societies. The figures of young people out of work across Western Europe are clearly staggering. The Labour leader Ed Miliband has now come forward with a proposal to get young people back into work. He wants to fund 100 000 jobs for people who have been out of work for more than one year. While this sounds a very agreeable idea, the question is where these jobs are coming from. As Harriet Harman struggled to explain the basics of the scheme on the Daily Politics show today, Ed Miliband was touting the programme in front of the party faithful.
Now, the question of funding aside, where would Labour find the 100 000 jobs? It seems the question is not one the Labour leadership is particularly troubled by. If private businesses are not coming forward to offer these jobs, so the proposal goes, Labour will simply create them in the public sector. Sounds familiar? Labour doing what it does best: creating phantom jobs in the public sector at the expense of ordinary tax paying families. The logic is presumably that this will push unemployment figures down and reduce the benefits bill.
Only, this is a false economy. Creating public sector jobs that lead nowhere is not likely to offer long term career prospects to young people. The proposal demonstrates how little Labour has bothered to understand youth unemployment. Not all young people are unemployed, and this should give them a clue. In fact, there are still hundreds of thousands of young people who are not British and who have found employment in the UK.
What British young people lack are employable skills, suitable training and practical experience. As Labour tried to push half of all young people in this country into universities up and down the country when it was in government, their work skills and experience suffered and companies looked abroad for young people with the right expertise and training. Creating phantom jobs in the public sector wont raise the skills levels of British young people. The solution has to start with a radical reform of the training and education sector which has for far too long parked young people on Mickey Mouse degrees. But this would require some serious thought, not rapid mis-fire policies.
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