An open letter to Matthew Hancock MP
At Youth Employment UK, we were deeply disappointed to hear the comments from the Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP this week regarding young people’s productivity and the new National Living Wage. Not only has the Minister made a glaringly inaccurate and sweeping statement, he has also put at risk the sense of worth many young people struggle to have in themselves.
Since his comments, we have been contacted by a number of our young members and our volunteer Youth Ambassadors who are outraged. The young people we work with and support are contributing to UK Plc, and to the society in which they live. Receiving this dismissive appraisal from a Government that has hitherto prided itself on its championing of young people is a kick in the teeth.
For those young people who have struggled with unemployment (which is not falling as dramatically as for older cohorts, and is also not the creation of those it affects) the opportunity to progress is limited, and the struggle is hard enough without such negative input.
The Minister’s comments undermine the value of apprenticeships and training; which, given the Governments agenda to create 3 million apprenticeships is baffling. Is he suggesting that the quality of training is not good; and does he represent the official Government view in saying it? Even once they have completed their training, is a young person still expected to be unproductive and not add value until they are 25?
Right now a 16 year old who starts an apprenticeship (on the min apprenticeship wage of £3.30ph) could fully qualify at 18 but would have to work for a further 7 years before this Government thinks they have significant worth.
A basic salary for an MP is £74,000 pa plus expenses and you can become an MP well below 25 as Mhairi Black has so eloquently demonstrated. Perhaps the Minister would like to suggest that she should not receive the same salary as her older counterparts?
Let’s then consider our 23 year old retail workers, scientists, technologists, care workers, paramedics, business owners and parents (and we could go on). These young people are the very foundations of the future of our country; what would the Minister say is the precise difference in their value compared with their 25 year old peers?
Age does not define a person’s quality; it is their individuality, the desire to excel, learn and add value.
Social mobility is a continuing problem in the UK, and there are already hundreds of thousands of young people underemployed, long-term NEET or at risk of being so. With this approach to wages, young people will struggle to live independently and progress until they are in their mid to late 20s. Does that represent a country of productivity and fairness?
This Government has asked firefighters, prison officers and the police to extend their retirement age, despite very real concerns from within those professions that their ability to do such physical jobs would be diminished as they go beyond the age of 65. According to the Minister’s logic, presumably, he would recommend tapering their pay as well.
Beyond the economic arguments for supporting the future of the nation’s workforce is a very real human concern; what message does it send to our young people that there are people at the heart of Government who believe that not only are they worth less than their older colleagues, but also that they do not deserve a Living Wage. We would like the Minister to answer why he believes this to be the case.
We deeply regret that the Minister has proven how out of touch he is with the young people in this country. We support the agenda to eradicate youth unemployment and have offered our support to this Government to ensure that young people are leading the way in tackling this urgent social issue. Businesses, training providers and young people have made huge leaps forward and we can’t help but feel that with Mr Hancock’s words, the Government has taken a major backwards step.
We invite Mr Hancock and any of his colleagues to hear the stories and views of our young members who inspire and add value to the world they live in every day. We urge him to accept our offer to let young people lead the way on tackling youth unemployment. Our Ambassadors are changing the way we approach youth unemployment and would bring desperately needed insight to politicians who clearly need to hear, feel and see what it means to be young in the UK today.
Young people live in a political reality that favours the middle aged and the elderly, and this does not go unnoticed. No one in the Government should be surprised by their outrage at the Minister’s ignorance today.
Young people need to be engaged with politics, need to be inspired about the world and the opportunities that are available to them. The Government should be their loudest cheerleaders, but instead we have Ministers who would seemingly question their value as employees, and their worth as members of society.
Youth Employment UK will shortly be producing a report on youth wages and the impact it has on youth unemployment. We look forward to discussing this with him.
Team Youth Employment UK CIC
For the editor:
Laura-Jane Rawlings 07748744049
Katie Pruszynski 07903095336
- About Youth Employment UK CIC (YEUK)
Youth Employment UK CIC (YEUK) is the national campaigning and membership organisation dedicated to tackling youth unemployment. Its members include 16-24 year olds, employers, educators and youth organisations. Bringing together a collective voice for all of those invested and affected by youth unemployment.
Website: www.yeuk.org.uk Twitter @YEUK2012
- Our young members have been asked to share their views on Matthew Hancock’s comment and these can be found on Twitter with #WorthMore