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‘Pay business to reduce youth unemployment’ – how does this construct young poeple?

by on February 24, 2014

In our exploration of web based data, we are used to seeing opinion pieces written about work (by which we mean employment, unemployment, under-employment etc) that focus on a particular (chronological) age group. They often offer interesting insights into how these age groups are socially constructed.

In this piece in The Telegraph, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, calls on the Chancellor ‘to put youth employment at the heart of his Budget speech next month’. The author of the article starts by saying that young people have a ‘unique contribution’ to make to a business (though he doesn’t expand on what this might be). He declares that ‘Young people want to work and employers are ready to hire them’. This might imply that that there isn’t a problem. But what is interesting is his argument that this on its own is insufficient, invoking the ‘lost generation’ argument and using this to justify the idea that Government intervention is required. According to Mr Longworth, Government must ‘make young people more attractive to business, such as paying grants to firms that are prepared to hire a long-term unemployed young person or take on and train a new apprentice’.

Overall, the article constructs young people as insufficiently attractive as potential employees, as ‘a risk’ and as an employment choice requiring financial reward. Moreover, it also positions business as unwilling or unable to undertake training of young people without such ‘reward’ which seems to be something of a shift from earlier years when taking on staff and providing ‘on the job training’ was common.

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