Capitalism never fully recovered from the 2008 financial crash. The feeble ‘recovery’ has been wiped in a heartbeat, despite all the hardship shouldered by the working class over the past decade of austerity.
Now with the worst economic collapse in the last 300 years upon us, the sickness of the system is most visible by looking at the situation facing the youth.
Even before COVID, the youth already had to endure the mental health crisis, floundering youth services, and an unaffordable housing market. Often the only work available for young people is in precarious, low paid jobs. The crisis is pushing the youth into desperation.
We can see very clearly that all these problems were built up in the previous period, and have now come to the surface with a bang. The situation has gone from bad to considerably worse in the space of a year.
Austerity here to stay
Recently, the BBC reported a rise in youth unemployment to 5%, with young workers at the largest risk of losing their jobs. Redundancies have run rife. General insecurity has gripped young people either looking for work, or in work.
Despite the COVID flagship ‘Kickstart’ scheme aiming to create 250,000 jobs, the reality is far from this. In six months, fewer than 5,000 people have started their placements – typically on poor pay.
Young people are clearly not a priority, as the Tories have spent the entire pandemic lining the pockets of big business. Cronyism is first on their rotten agenda.
The unemployment figure hides a deeper malaise in the economy. With 4.5 million people currently on furlough, many more will find themselves on the scrap-heap after lockdown ends.
Not to mention the fact that the costs of furlough will be put again onto the shoulders of the working class. Under capitalism, there is no such thing as a free lunch – today’s stimulus package is tomorrow’s austerity.
Youth’s dire situation
We have seen rabid attacks on youth services during the pandemic. Having already been cut close to the bone, the Guardian now reports that 83% of youth organisations have seen a decrease in funding due to COVID, despite a 66% increase in demand!
This comes at a time when funding for organisations that help develop life skills, encourage social life and engagement, and remedy the feelings of isolation is at its most important. Lamentably, the least assistance is given by those holding the purse strings.
In fact, 64% of youth organisations say they are at risk of closure in the next 12 months. Those that close may well do so permanently, making it all the harder for young people to access important services. The Tories are therefore pouring petrol on the fire, and the social consequences will be immense.
One such consequence is that of exacerbated mental health issues. Feelings of stability, empowerment, and contentment are vital to mental wellbeing. These feelings are hard to come by when forced into unemployment or precarious work, and an insecure, overcrowded housing market.
To make matters worse, there is the high possibility of local support organisations shutting down. As these issues continue to grow worse, mental health support receives less and less funding, with 8% year on year cuts since 2011.
Tragically, therefore, as the causes of the mental health crisis intensify, the means of solving them are rapidly diminishing. The perfect storm is being prepared.
Organise the fight back!
The best way to overcome feelings of powerlessness is through organised, militant struggle. The youth are by no means powerless, and need not take this lying down.
By educating and agitating for better conditions, and linking up with workers in struggle, the youth can play an important role in transforming society, so that it is run in the interests of the vast majority.
We must demand more – not just crumbs, but the whole bakery.
The only remedy for these problems that blight the youth is through rational socialist planning. We have the resources and capabilities to provide decent housing, high quality services, and ensure rewarding work for all. But these resources are currently in the wrong hands – those of the bankers and billionaires.
Only by ending the anarchy of capitalism, and the havoc it wreaks on the working class, can we end the dire situation of the youth.
David Zee – UEA Marxists