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Britain's Youth Employment Plan is Smart, But Lacking

On Friday morning, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a 1 billion pound ($1.5 billion) initiviative to help unemployed youth find jobs. The plan would offer a subsidy of $3,536 to employers to take on 18-24 year-olds who are out of work and place them in temporary jobs, apprenticeships, or training programs. The hope would be that employers given this benefit would be able to later hire these young people full-time. However, this government program is a temporary fix to the problem of youth unemployment in the United Kingdom because it does not guarantee an individual a job for more than six months. The United States should look to the U.K.’s idea for guidance in creating a separate plan to combat youth unemployment, but we should not adopt the same plan. The needs of young people in finding jobs are much different than those of older adults and thus it is wise that the U.S. creates a plan that is directed solely towards creating youth jobs. However, the U.K.’s plan is only a very temporary measure that comes at an extreme cost.

Britain’s plan is a step in the right direction. Instead of announcing that 18-24 year-olds are lazy or apathetic, the government is making an active effort by targeting this portion of the population. However, this plan is no more than a quick fix that will not last long: the subsidy will be offered to employers for keeping the young person in their employ for six months, while the training placements will last up to eight weeks, according to the BBC. The BBC also adds that “Clegg said that employers had told him that ‘if you give us a bit of help at the beginning, with the start-up costs of employing a young person, invariably we stand a good chance of giving that young person a permanent job,’” though other politicians have cast doubt upon this affirmation.

While experience is especially necessary for young people and some employment is better than none, £1 billion pounds for 410,000 jobs that will last – at most – six months is a lot of money. A lack of experience is not the only reason why many young people cannot find jobs: there are just not enough jobs to go around. Adults, who have been adult for more than a few years, will always have more experience than young people and six months experience is not going to change this. Therefore, there must be a better way to make use of $1.5 billion, a solution that has a more lasting effect.

As well as the need to create longer-lasting jobs, this subsidy plan puts workers at a disadvantage. As Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber mentioned in the aforementioned BBC article, “there are already widespread reports of young people on the programme being exploited,” young people who “shouldn’t be conscripted into edging out other workers who should have been paid the going rate for the job.” The subsidy allows employers to hire young people at minimum wage (but only pay half this wage out of their own pocket because of the subsidy) and then continues to pay them at lower wages than they would pay more experienced workers.

With the unemployment rates in the United Kingdom, Spain, and the United States at 8.3%, 22.2%, and 9.1% respectively in August 2011 according to Eurostat, it is clear that the governments of this country must act. But the United Kingdom’s new plan is not one that the United States should adopt. It is not a cost-effective solution: merely a band-aid for a much larger problem. However, the United Kingdom’s plan does highlight the need for the U.S. government to create a plan that targets young adult unemployment as a different problem that adult unemployment. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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