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Thursday, 15 August 2013 01:00

A generation without hope

Secondary school pupils receiving their A-level results in England and Wales tomorrow - Scottish students had theirs last week - are justified in worrying on two fronts.

Will their grades be good enough to guarantee them the university places they've set their hearts on?

And if higher education is not for them, will their A-level results help them find work?

The realisation that official, understated, figures indicate that unemployment for 16 to 24-year-olds has leapt by 15,000 to 973,000 - a fifth of this age group - will be even more depressing.

As bad as the employment situation is for the workforce in general, snuffing out hope among the young is a crime of outrageous proportions.

Government ministers who trot out their litany of demons and scapegoats to absolve themselves of responsibility for the jobless figures often refer to families where no-one has had a job for two or three generations.

They portray this occasional phenomenon as a lifestyle choice when their own failure to develop an economy that prioritises full employment denies youngsters keen to work and to build their own future and casts them unheeded onto the scrapheap.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has amended the criteria for setting interest rates, including the need to boost employment to the traditional obsession with inflation.

However, holding interest rates at the current low level is not enough to spur economic growth and provide jobs.

Big business in Britain continues to record bumper profits, chalking up £82.8 billion in the first quarter of 2013, but it is reluctant to invest this income, preferring to reward shareholders with lavish dividends.

According to the Royal Bank of Scotland, British companies were sitting on £754bn on their balance sheets last year while capital investment was down 17.5 per cent from levels seen prior to the 2008 banking crisis.

Britain's business sector is conducting an investment strike until it can be guaranteed even higher profits than currently enjoyed.

One million unemployed young people, the other 1.5 million people officially jobless and the countless millions more either denied the right to work or forced into part-time, temporary or casual labour against their will are effectively held hostage by ruthless corporate speculators.

Unemployment is a tragedy for those without a job, but it is also wasteful for a society in need of housing, social services and manufacturing.

The conservative coalition government's austerity agenda is a form of class war waged against workers and the poor.

While average hourly wages have dipped 5.5 per cent since 2010 and the government is hitting the most vulnerable in society through benefit cuts, millionaires are coining it, not least through the tax break handed them in April.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats claim that squeezing pay, pensions, benefits and services is necessary to address the deficit that it blames on the last Labour government rather than on the charitable bailout of the banking sector.

Unfortunately, the Labour front bench echoes this false claim, disarming it in any bid to provide a credible antidote to government policy.

In the absence of an effective parliamentary opposition, winning greater support for local, broad, non-sectarian groups of the People's Assembly Against Austerity is essential to map out a real alternative.

Accepting the government's neoliberal approach is a dead end. Public investment funded by greater taxation on big business and the rich is the way forward.

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