‘Jilted Generation’ demand “we want jobs”

Shiv Malik is the co-author of the book Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth. He comments on unpaid interns and unenforced minimum wage legislation.

Shiv Malik is the co-author of the book Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth.

Long since dark, with temperatures dropping below zero, a small rump of three hundred school pupils and students remained in Trafalgar square last Tuesday, the protest that was DayX2. A standoff with the police ensued and cops tried to push protesters off the broad plinth of Nelson’s column and away from the area altogether. Suddenly a different chant went up – one as yet unheard through five hours of cat and mouse through the city, or even in the seven hours in the Whitehall kettle the week before. The cry was plain, clear and deadly serious: “We want jobs. We want jobs.”

Whatever its merits, it is easy enough for a government to deploy an argument against students who want to fight against increased charges to tuition fees. They retort that university is after all a choice; you don’t have to take on the debt if you don’t want to. However it is much harder to justify a policy of austerity that has cut a future of work from underneath the feet of Britain’s youth.

As my co-author Ed Howker, and I explain in our book, Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth, the dire state of youth unemployment has been long in the making. Numbers on NEETS – those not in education, employment or training – were rising since well before the down turn, most dramatically amongst those aged 16-17. During the height of the boom years the ILO measure for unemployment amongst this group peaked at 29%. For those ages 18-24 unemployment hit 12% in 2006. Now, there are currently 1.5 million unemployed under 35’s out of a total of around 2.5 million and this is expected to rise with every school year that graduates into the worst jobs market in decades.

One of the consequences of this surplus of youth labour is that young people have never been so eager and willing to do anything to get a job including working for free as unpaid interns for months on end without pay in the hope that they might get a job at the end of it. As a recent BBC5live investigation found, this practise of hiring free labour isn’t restricted to private sector firms. Public sector bodies like the NHS and the Home Office are even getting in on the act. One intern who was recruited to work for five months with a Primary Care Trust even helped train managers with staff appraisals – all without being paid a penny for her efforts.

Of course, most of this might be illegal under national minimum wage legislation – those who do anything that resembles work should be paid the minimum wage. But instead of stepping in to enforce the law, the last Labour Government in a report entitled “Unleashing Aspiration” suggested that in the interests of fair access, graduates and school leavers should have graduate loans extended so they could more easily meet the cost of supplying their labour for free. Most troubling of all, even for those that are in paid work, the situation is still grim. From a historical perspective those aged under-30 have lost huge ground in terms of pay and conditions over the last few decades when compared to an older cohort. One example that we highlight in our book is that whilst pay has increased by some 40% for those aged 45 to 55 during the eight years from 1999-2008, those aged 20-30 have only witnessed a 30% increase. Taking the disparity in starting salaries into account, the rise in pay for those on entry wages barely covers the cost of inflation over the period for younger workers.

If you take a further step back and look at the picture of all workers in the UK a shocking trend begins to emerge. Political parties of all stripes profess to want “work” to pay. In this time of public deficit, there is also an impetus to reduce the welfare bill; politicians want people in work, and not dependent on handouts. But as the Independent on Sunday reveals 2.1 million working families are now in poverty even though both parents work.

The rise of those who work and yet still find themselves in poverty has been getting steadily worse since the 1970’s. This graph is a breakdown of national wealth in to its two main parts; wages and corporate profits. As you can see, workers have been getting less and less a share of GDP since 1976. Meanwhile the slice of GDP going towards shares and corporate profits has been increasing ever since.

In fact if workers today were getting paid the same today (as a percentage of the GDP pie) as they were from 1950-1980, every one of Britain’s 29.5 million workers would get £2,000 more every year. If that money – 4% extra of GDP-  was divided out to those 10 million workers paid less than the average wage, each one would get an average of £5,000 a year pro rata. Even more interestingly, taken from the perspective of total money available in the pot, people who worked were better remunerated under the Thatcher years than they were under New Labour. This perhaps explains why we have seen a massive rise in inequality over the last two decades.

Parties of both left and right have utterly failed to correct this trend. And as we note in our book, Gordon Brown revealed why this was so just before the General election. In a Newsnight interview Jeremy Paxman asked Brown why he didn’t simply raise the minimum wage to halt growing inequality. His reply came in a burst of frustration. “Look, it’s impossible, it’s impossible in a global labour market to control the salaries of people, and it’s not the right thing to do. See, I can’t say that someone should be paid “X” in the United Kingdom, if someone can be paid “Y” for the same job in America or elsewhere”.

Figuring out how to make work pay in a globalised economy will be one of the central challenges of our generation. It will be the key to a fair and just economy and one that can sustain itself in the long run both in terms of resources and moral legitimacy. But in the meantime we know that young people – whether they’re students or in work – don’t have a lot of money. So we have decided to give away our book for free. It is available via all smart phone (excluding iPhones – and yes we know that’s a problem but we’re working on it). All you have to do is text “Jilted” to 60300. Happy reading!

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

40 Responses to “‘Jilted Generation’ demand “we want jobs””

  1. shiv malik

    Why every low paid worker should be getting £5,000 extra a year. My piece for #LFF http://bit.ly/eSmR4f #solidarity #demo2010 #UKUncut

  2. Jilted Generation

    Why every low paid worker should be getting £5,000 extra a year. My piece for #LFF http://bit.ly/eSmR4f #solidarity #demo2010 #UKUncut

  3. Fred Garnett

    RT @shivmalik1: Why every low paid worker should be getting £5,000 extra a year. My piece for #LFF http://bit.ly/eSmR4f #solidarity #de …

  4. Jilted Generation

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D

  5. Tanya de Grunwald

    "Both left and right have failed our young on jobs" – Great piece by #GraduateFog's friend @Jilted_G on @Leftfootfwd: http://bit.ly/ghUxUF

  6. Aaron Peters

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D

  7. Jilted Generation

    Why everyone who works should be getting 2,000 more every year: Shiv's piece for Left Foot Forward. http://fb.me/G5VxefIk

  8. Cat Smith

    Check out great blog by @shivmalik1 on plight of young workers / unemployed http://bit.ly/eSmR4f #solidarity #demo2010 #UKUncut

  9. shiv malik

    RT @leftfootfwd: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D @pennyred @adamramsay @bevaniteellie

  10. AdamRamsay

    RT @shivmalik1: RT @leftfootfwd: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D @pennyred @adamramsay @ …

  11. Job Search Pages

    'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" | Left Foot Forward: Shiv Malik is the co-author of the book Jilted Ge… http://bit.ly/hwlxwh

  12. TU Cultural Studies

    ‘Jilted Generation’ demand “we want jobs” http://bit.ly/eD2qpy

  13. Eimear O'Shea

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  14. Laurie Penny

    RT @shivmalik1: RT @leftfootfwd: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D @pennyred @adamramsay @ …

  15. Nikhil Shah

    If you want jobs, leave the EU and stop so-called “skilled immigration”, so jobs can be taken by graduates. Yours, a Labour voting 3rd generation Indian Brit.

  16. Lillian

    RT @shivmalik1: RT @leftfootfwd: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D @pennyred @adamramsay @ …

  17. Denny

    "People who work were better remunerated in the Thatcher years than they were under New Labour." http://s.coop/62k

  18. Ma

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  19. Denny

    Thank you for sharing the book free of charge – much appreciated, and I’ll be interested to read it.

    That said, is there a reason you didn’t choose to publish it in a normal ebook format? (epub, for example) A book that installs itself as a standalone application (after first installing an installer) instead of just using one of the ebook readers already installed on my phone seems a bit bizarre (and is presumably why you have an issue supporting some platforms).

  20. Hestia Peppe

    RT @shivmalik1: RT @leftfootfwd: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D @pennyred @adamramsay @ …

  21. Oxford Kevin

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  22. Hestia Peppe

    shiv malik is also giving his book awy for free (see the end of this article) http://is.gd/ijdMJ

  23. Ash

    “people who worked were better remunerated under the Thatcher years than they were under New Labour. This perhaps explains why we have seen a massive rise in inequality over the last two decades.”

    This isn’t correct, surely? According to Wilkinson and Pickett (who presumably know their stuff on inequality), inequality shot up during the Thatcher years, peaked around 1991, and has bumped along just below that level ever since. Although their were rises as well as falls under both the Major and Labour governments, their data certainly doesn’t show a “massive rise” since 1990.

  24. Jilted Generation

    RT @leftfootfwd: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" writes @shivmalik1 http://bit.ly/fyMo9D @sunnyhundal #dayx #demo2010 #solidarity

  25. Jobs in Stratford

    Another thought provoking post, thank you for sharing the book.

  26. Ash

    This is the data on inequality I’m thinking of; I’ve seen a very similar graph attributed to Wilkinson and Pickett. Maybe they use it in their book.

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/images/2009/11/income-inequality.jpg

  27. Shiv Malik

    Hi Ash, It is true that if you take working people as a whole, people were better remunerated during the Thatcher years than they were under New labour. This doesn’t take into account better services or increased benefits. I exclude that for a reason because I’m only dealing with work and I think that having working people rely on benefits is a dangerous and “unfair” way to run an economy. But income equality for working people has certainly shot up since the 1970’s. Here’s a link to a great speech from the US in the last week which outlines the same but much more pronounced problem in the US http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5OtB298fHY

  28. Ash

    Hi Shiv – thanks for the clarification. I do wonder if the distinction between income from wages and income from benefits is as sharp as you suggest; if I pay £400 in tax and get £300 back in tax credits, say, am I relying on benefits or am I just keeping more of what I earn? I also wonder if Brown isn’t basically right that there’s only so much you can do in terms of requiring employers to pay higher wages; at some point the government has to step in and either ‘top up’ the earnings of low-paid workers or cut their taxes to ensure that they have decent net incomes. (Yes, it’s slightly absurd to take money off employers in the form of taxes only to hand it to their employees – something they could have done themselves without the taxman getting involved – but if the employers are happier to pay higher taxes than higher wages… I suppose Ed M’s suggestion that lower corp tax rates should be reserved for employers paying a living wage is an attempt to nudge them in the other direction.)

  29. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  30. Jilted Generation

    RT @spsot: RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  31. Shiv Malik

    Hi Ash, you say “it’s slightly absurd to take money off employers in the form of taxes only to hand it to their employees – something they could have done themselves without the taxman getting involved”. But this is not how it works in real life. Once money is handed to people, they believe it is theirs and they are loathed to give it to the taxman at all. It becomes property and the issue then raised is one of freedom vs. the force of the state. However if employers or shareholders, do not receive the money in the first place because they must pay it out in wages first, then the issue does not arise in the same way. And yes you don’t need the tax man involved- this might be an extra benefit. But these two things mechanisms are completely different and one cannot divorce numbers from people – that isn’t economics it’s just accounting.

  32. Why

    RT @spsot: RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  33. Bryonny G-H

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  34. Andy McCormick

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg

  35. Ash

    Shiv –

    “Once money is handed to people, they believe it is theirs and they are loathed to give it to the taxman. It becomes property and the issue then raised is one of freedom vs. the force of the state. However if employers or shareholders, do not receive the money in the first place because they must pay it out in wages first, then the issue does not arise in the same way.”

    Not in *just* the same way, no, but it still arises – employers aren’t typically any more keen to hand money over to their employees than to the taxman. And if the government is *requiring* employers to pay higher wages(rather than keep more profit), the issue of freedom vs force of the state is still very much to the fore.

    Another point is this: the distributional impact of raising hourly rates for lower-paid workers would presumably be similar to the impact of raising the tax threshold; i.e. full-time workers gain most, part-time workers gain a bit less, and pensioners and the unemployed gain nothing, widening the gap between the very poorest and low-to-middle earners. In that sense, raising benefits/tax credits is preferable, since that’s money that can reach everyone. (That’s not to say raising lower-paid workers’ wages is necessarily a bad thing! – maybe it would mean an increased tax take, enabling benefits for the poorest to be increased – but it is something to think about.)

  36. Mary Hallam

    RT @shivmalik1: Jilted Generation demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/fyMo9D

  37. Jennifer O'Mahony

    RT @leftfootfwd: 'Jilted Generation' demand "we want jobs" http://bit.ly/gzU6Hg <<<yep, that's you, me, and everyone we know.

  38. Perfect Bound Books

    I see unemployment is at it’s highest now too, a 17 year high!

  39. There's growth in jobs, but growth can't keep up with demand | Left Foot Forward

    […] also: • The jilted generation demand ‘We want jobs’  – Shiv Malik, January 6th […]

Leave a Reply