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Southampton is just another provincial city on the south coast of England. To get to the job center in Southampton you have to pass through the old walls of the city, some of which date back over a thousand years to the time of the Norman conquest. Throughout this period the walls have survived plague, civil war and the aerial blitz of World War 2 which hit the city hard as a result of its status as an important naval port. Let’s just say these walls have stood the test of time, something the British economy and job market is failing to do, rapidly.
As anyone knows who has experienced one, from the U.S.A. to the U.K., the job center can be a depressing place. Today as I entered and took my place in the line it was perhaps 90% filled with the unemployed who were under 30. I have graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in History and cannot find anything that pays near a ‘living wage’. I do not know how others of my generation with little or no qualifications are going to make it through the next few years, although I am sure they will, people find a way to survive.
This recession is reeally hitting the people of my generation. UK unemployment for the 18-24 age group is hovering just below 18%
In a report issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the effect of the economic crisis on the youth of Europe, as reported by the Telegraph ‘‘In the last quarter of 2009, the number of 15- to 24-year-olds who would like to work but did not seek a job reached 23.7pc in the UK, the highest of all four countries analysed’’. No doubt many on the Right (wrong), including many in the coalition government, will argue that this is because of Britain’s welfare system and its openness to abuse. The reality of the matter is that it is this system and this system alone keeps many of the long term out of work, from going under completely.
One example of the ludicrous state of the job market in Britain today was related to me by a friend and fellow graduate. He had recently applied for a job at the now infamous Royal Bank Of Scotland (RBS). He sailed through the online tests and telephone interview, only to be turned down at the last hurdle because, and get this, he failed a credit check! This, from the same bank who received billions from the TARP fund in the fall of 2008 and a further £25-45 billion($39-70 Billon) in British taxpayer money back in 2009 because of their own credit unworthiness. The same bank whose behaviour and lending practices were one of the main reasons for the credit crunch and subsequent contraction of the job market.
Coupled with this lack of job prospects it is not enough that I and the majority of graduates have left university with a debt of over £20,000 ($31,308). The British government or ‘coalition of the willing’ now want to install a graduate tax that would see graduates continue to pay thousands more for their higher education, an education, which the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Osborne received for free.
Any good tradesman knows that all structures must be built on solid foundations, like the Norman walls of Southampton. If they are not they will eventually collapse and crumble. That is what is happening to the British economy and consequentially to the job market. The public sector is now shut to graduates or anyone for that matter. For graduates today in Britain from the majority of universities outside Oxford and Cambridge the choice for their futures appears to either lay abroad in the rising economies( Vietnam, Brazil, China, India even Rwanda!) Or at home, behind a desk, on the phones selling, carrying plates or on the Dole (British slang for welfare).
JONATHAN WOODROW MARTIN is just another graduate trying to find his way. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org