Message from Tory conference: Don’t vote Conservative if you’re under 25

Under Tory plans you could make National Insurance contributions for nine years yet still not be entitled to social security support should you lose your job.

David Cameron has announced that under an all-Conservative government under-25s would not be able to claim benefits. Young people must “earn or learn”, Cameron said.

“Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits. It’s time for bold action here. We should ask, as we write our next manifesto, if that option should really exist at all.”

It’s important to look at the background against which Cameron’s remarks were made: during the period April 2013 to June 2013, there were 1.09 million young people (aged from 16 to 24) in the UK who were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). Over a longer term, youth unemployment has been within 50,000 of the one million level since Apr-Jun 2011.

Notwithstanding the fact that a ‘life’ on benefits is no longer an option due to government reforms (if the coalition are to be believed, that is), simply withdrawing the right of NEETs to claim benefits is no solution at all to the problem of youth unemplyment.

David Cameron said today that young people must “earn or learn”. Noble words indeed, but language which misses the point: many people want to learn but can’t because they need to earn, and many others want to earn but are prevented from doing so because the jobs just aren’t there. Analysis from UNISON has shown that in some parts of the UK more than twenty people are chasing each vacancy.

The evidence that young people want jobs but are unable to get them is supported by recent research from Comres, which found that 88 per cent of young people want to work or study.

Cameron went on:

“the [Conservative] party should give young people a “clear, positive choice” to go to school or college, do an apprenticeship or get a job.”

Except, on this government’s watch, youth apprenticeships are down by 12 per cent. In 2009/10, under 19s accounted for 40 per cent of starts; in 2011/12 that figure was just 25 per cent.

This is before we even get to the potential injustice of the measure: under Tory plans you could make National Insurance contributions for nine years yet still not be entitled to social security support should you lose your job. Is this ‘rewarding hard work’? Hardly.

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