Birmingham City Council Launch Birmingham Youth Unemployment Commission

Birmingham City Council have today announced that they will be launching the Birmingham Youth Unemployment Commission, to tackle the problem of youth unemployment in Birmingham. They say the commission will bring together key players from business, education, the third sector and national experts to tackle the city’s youth unemployment.

Birmingham has real issues with youth unemployment, with over 2,500 young people long term unemployed in the city, with inner-city wards reporting as much as 40% rates of long term unemployment amongst young people (long term unemployment is defined as more than 6 months out of work).

Nationally, there are over 1 million young unemployed people, a figure that has risen sharply in the past few years, as school leavers face the worse economic conditions since the great depression, and extreme competition for jobs – earlier this year, when Jaguar expanded their Solihull operations, they had 20,000 applications for the 1,000 jobs. The Hotel La Tour, advertising at a similar time, had 15 applicants for every job.

There is no question that serious action is required to tackle this problem. 15% of NEETs (young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) die within 10 years, and helping these young people is of huge importance.
We hope that the commission will recognise that the biggest barrier to eradicating long term youth unemployment, as Albert Bore claims is the aim, is the state of our economy, and the amount of competition that there is for the small number of available jobs.

Right now the “help” that young people receive is to be sent on workfare placements, doing unpaid jobs for profit making companies, charities and public sector organisations (although we have to say here that we’ve not heard of anyone being sent to Birmingham City Council on a workfare scheme – get in touch with us if you have been, we’d love to know).
This week a new scheme was launched in London what will see 18-24 year olds forced to do unpaid work placements lasting as long as 13 weeks from the day they sign on, if they do not have at least 6 months of work experience already, giving school leavers no opportunity to find work.

Young people are forced to go on the Work Experience Scheme or Sector Based Work Academies, under threat of being sanctioned for between 2 weeks and 6 months – which means not have the money you need for food or to put in the gas meter. Earlier this month, the high court ruled that these schemes are lawful, but opened the door for people to reclaim sanctions in certain circumstances. The rulings are being appealed, and the appeal will take place in October.
Earlier this year, after pressure from campaigners like Boycott Workfare, and high profile internet actions targetting companies who were exploiting this free labour, the government removed sanctions from the Work Experience Scheme, though they have made it clear that anyone refusing will get sent on Mandatory Work Activity instead. Following the court ruling, the government may seek to reinstate sanctions on the work experience scheme.

When we look at the evidence from similar schemes we find that workfare does not help unemployment. Mandatory Work Activity has no effect on unemployment, whilst the Work Programme may actually reduce your chances of finding a job from 28% to 22%. These two schemes are not limited to young people, but many young people have found themselves sent on Mandatory Work Activity, for up to 8 weeks.

When a young person does find a job the chances are they will be an “apprentice”, paid just £2.60 / hr – far below the minimum wage (which is at reduced rates for young people anyway), and just more than a third of a living wage of £7.20/hr. Quite why it is thought a young person needs less money than someone over 25 is not clear. Perhaps it is simply the result of a government of privileged millionaires who have never been financially independent from their parents.
These apprenticeships are not like the apprenticeships of old. They are not designed as training courses to teach young people a trade. You will find apprenticeships in every sector now – 40% of Morrisson’s employees are apprentices, and McDonalds pocketed £10m of taxpayers money on a apprenticeship scheme without creating a single job. Apprenticeships used to be about training young people, building skills and passing knowledge on from one generation to the next. Now they are simply about allowing companies to exploit young people, increase their profit margins and undermine the minimum wage.

Albert Bore has said

We will set a series of targets and programmes, agreed with partners, and will monitor and track delivery. It is our ambition to lead the way in Birmingham for eradicating long term unemployment amongst our young people.

If he wants to have any hope of eradicating long term unemployment amongst young people he will need to think beyond failing workfare schemes or allowing companies to further exploit young people, and towards a more radical approach which recognises that the structures of our economy need to change if everyone is to have a job, and that austerity and cuts in government spending will only reduce the availability of jobs and opportunities for young people.

We’re going to leave the final words to Jamie Chapman & Adam Yosef, and their short poem, “Taught from a Textbook”, performed by Jamie Chapman, about how the current political climate is affecting the opportunities and career goals of young people across the UK.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Birmingham City Council Launch Birmingham Youth Unemployment Commission

  1. The continuing discrimination is noted – youth unemployment taking discriminatory precedence of older-aged unemployment.

    • Not that I’m denying any issue with older-aged unemployment, but youth unemployment nationally is over 20%, whilst total unemployment is around 8% I think. I have no idea what rates of unemployment are like with say over-50s though – but I’m not sure exactly what you mean by older-aged unemployment.
      And older people aren’t usually on apprentice schemes at £2.60/hr when they do get a job, and get higher rates of benefits – if you’re under 35 (and without children), you can only get housing benefit for a shared room for instance, and under 25s get a reduced rate of JSA – £53.50/wk. The tories are even talking about removing housing benefit from under 25s entirely.
      I think young people are getting a very raw deal right now, I wouldn’t really think of this group as being positively discriminated towards.
      Doesn’t mean that more shouldn’t be done for older aged unemployed people – but then more should be done for everyone who is unemployed.

    • colin preece

      While training in radio and journalism techniques with CSVMEDIA then situated in Northfield in 1998 I had the opportunity to interview a Mrs. Jane Beaver, NEW DEAL regional manager for Birmingham and Solihull. When asked about where youth unemployment would be in a years time she replied…”I would like to be able to say….youth unemployment? What youth unemployment? She and non of her colleagues have ever been able to say it and the same rhetoric is being spouted today as it was then….BCC “….bring together key players from business, education, the third sector and national experts to tackle the city’s youth unemployment.” Nothing has changed except perhaps the fact more of our cities youth are not working and those that have managed to find employment slave for a pittance!

  2. Kim

    @pheman

    I have to agree that dividing and focusing on one generation ignores the impact unemployment has on the family unit which will contain all ages. If one person is unable to earn there will be less money for the entire family.

    The problem is that the schemes are harsher on young people and those under 25 are being punished for something which is out of their hands. Loss of housing benefits, student debt which hangs over our heads and lack of experience due to the inability to get a job in the first place. It’s important to highlight these problems because…they exist. That percentage is extremely high and considering Birmingham is the “second city” ridiculous.

    • I do agree with the two responses to my own comment about age discrimination. My objective in making my original comment is no more than that of pointing out that these “initiatives” and projects do tend to be heavily slanted in one (age) direction to the potential detriment of others.

      There is no way I am against these “initiatives”, etc. in principle. But they can so easily result in people taking their eyes off the overall – and, perhaps, underlying – problem(s). In short, the whole exercise as announced by Sir Alfred and as supported strongly elsewhere looks to be little more than political eye-candy or smoke-screen of doing what looks good rather than what does real and lasting good.

      I do not disagree with what either of two commentators have said. Equally, and genuinely, I am grateful to note that they do not disagree with what it is I am drawing to a wider attention.

  3. Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    “Sounds like a step in the right direction. So glad we now have a ‘can-do’ council in Birmingham.”
    (tweet from @gogwit to @politicsinbrum, 8 August 2012CE at 1809)
    I’ll stand by that. It has been fashionable for those in power, particularly over the past quarter-century, to wring their hands, shrug their shoulders and pass unemployment off as inevitable and dismiss the ideal of full employment as a naïve pipe dream. It gives me inordinate pleasure to hear our elected representatives talk again of “eradication” of long-term unemployment as a worthy and worthwhile aspiration. For socialists it must always be an aim, for it is a cornerstone of the *real* big society, the one wherein all contribute according to their means, be it by hand, or by brain, or both, for the benefit of all.

  4. Pingback: Birmingham Trades Council » Birmingham City Council Launch Birmingham Youth Unemployment Commission

  5. Pingback: Next BATC Meeting – Monday 8th October – Youth Unemployment in Birmingham | Birmingham Against The Cuts

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