Young people leading the TUC's 2012 A Future That Works march. Photo: Paul Box
What the party manifestos say on young people
Young people are finding it hard to get decent work and when they do its usually low paid and short term, buying their own home has become an impossible dream and paying over 40% of their salary on rent has become the norm, they’re also the group least likely to vote. So what do the main parties say they’ll do for young people in their manifestos?
The Conservatives promise to build 200,000 starter homes available at 20% below the market price for first-time buyers under the age of 40. Yet whilst they give with one hand they’re taking away with the other, by threatening to put an end to housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds, effectively leaving out of work young people with no safety net. Other plans to fix the housing crisis include extending to the right-to-buy scheme – but how will selling off housing association properties reduce youth homelessness? On employment, Tories aim to ‘abolish long-term youth unemployment’ but give little detail on how, apart from forcing 18-21 years olds to work for their benefits.
Just like their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats pledge to increase apprenticeships, promising another two million. They also state they’ll introduce better careers advice in schools and colleges, build 300,000 new homes every year, and a “Rent to Own” programme, where young people will be able to buy their own home without needing a deposit but, promises, promises – possibly the strength of their commitment to issues concerning young people was displayed by their election commitment last time – and what they did (or didn’t do) when in Government, which is probably why they’ve kept quiet on university tuition fees this time round.
Labour have a specific Youth Manifesto. They promise £5 billion ‘Future Homes Fund’ for house building which will prioritise first-time buyers and 200,000 new homes built by 2020. With the majority of young people in the private renter sector there’s good news for those struggling with sky high rents and living in poor conditions, as Labour say they’ll put a ceiling on excessive rent rises, ban rip-off letting agency fees and create a national register of landlords in a bid to drive up standards.
Three quarters of a million 16-24 year olds are currently unemployed. If elected in May, Labour promises a guaranteed job to all young people who have been out of work for a year, paid at least at the National Minimum Wage. Since 38% of all those employed on zero hour contracts are aged under 30, the news that Labour will look to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts could go some way into helping young people gain secure employment so that they can plan for the future.
In addition, Labour are set on increasing the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 and will promote the Living Wage, providing a tax rebate to companies that sign up.
To help get young people into employment they also guarantee ‘personalised, independent, face-to-face careers advice for every young person and a guaranteed apprenticeship to every school leaver who gets the grades but that’s not all, they also say they’ll cut University tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000.
The Greens, have a section on young people in their manifesto and cover a lot of the same areas as Labour regarding regulating the private rented sector, raising minimum wage and providing an apprenticeship to all qualified young people aged 16–25 who want one. They also make promises concerning free higher education, transport and extra funding for youth services however,to what extent they are properly costed is a question which must be raised.
No specific section on young people in the UKIP manifesto, On work, UKIP want to allow young people to start an apprenticeship at GSCE level and are also in favour of abolishing tuition fees -but only for students who wish to study: science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine. They also want to prevent international students from applying for funding to study in the UK.
The SNP also have a Youth Manifesto, in which they promise a UK-wide target of 100,000 affordable homes each year, as well as support for Help to Buy and shared equity schemes to help young people get a foot on the housing ladder. The SNP plans for 30,000 new modern apprenticeships every year by 2020 and supports increasing the minimum wage to £8.70, cracking down on zero-hours contracts and extending the Living Wage.
It is good to see some specific commitments to young people in the main parties’ manifestos. Of course, what political parties say they’ll do in their manifestos is not, necessarily, an indication of what will happen once they are in Government. This is why a young person’s place should be in their union. Only through joining and being active in trade unions can young people truly hold politicians to account and campaign, through collective action, for better conditions in the workplace and beyond.