Whilst the wealthiest top 1% in the UK has seen a dramatic increase in wealth since the start of the recession, worsening conditions have contributed to a sharp rise in the youth suicide rate. Belfast is amongst the highest city suicide rates in the UK. Whilst Stormont ministers are grumbling at the thought of losing their £48,000 chauffeur driven cars, many young people face being driven out of education due to expected rises in tuition fees and cuts in third level colleges. On top of those officially unemployed, a further 29% of young people are “economically inactive” – in other words, they have no job.
A combination of a lack of jobs and vicious cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance means teenagers are now more dependent than ever on their parents or guardians, who in turn are more squeezed than ever as a result of rising prices and the Assembly parties deepening cuts. At the same time, the mega-rich bankers have seen 10% salary increases to “compensate” for the slight knocks to their multi-million pound bonuses!
Young people revolt against the system
Young people across Europe though have had enough. In country after country, youth are organising on the streets demanding jobs, education and a future. Young people in Greece, Portugal, France and Spain have staged huge protests, inspired by the revolutionary movement of workers and young people across North Africa demanding fundamental change. The uprisings in North Africa have shown that mass movements of ordinary people can topple the most oppressive regimes. More and more young people are also drawing correct conclusions that the capitalist system has to go.
Socialist solutions needed
Only socialist policies can begin to deliver a future for young people. Socialist Youth demands a 35 hour working week with no loss of pay – this would create 56,000 full-time jobs in Northern Ireland. Low pay should be eliminated. We fight for an immediate rise of the minimum wage to £8 an hour and the scrapping of the youth exemptions which allows employers to pay a 16 year old up to £2.30 less than a worker over 21 for exactly the same job. Take the banks fully into public ownership under democratic workers’ control and abolish the actions of greedy bank bosses like RBS chief executive Stephen Hester who has recently been paid £2million in bonuses! The parties in Stormont are wasting £10billion in privatisation contracts when this money could be used to launch a job creation scheme to provide tens of thousands of jobs targeted at young people of all skill levels through the building and improvement of much needed housing and public services.
Socialist Youth is an internationalist campaigning group. Our sister groups are actively involved in the mass movements in Spain, Greece and France. We are involved with many groups actively opposing not just cuts to education, but also to health and other public services such as libraries. Crucially, Socialist Youth is building an alternative to the chaotic failure of capitalism – we are fighting for real change – for a socialist society to unlock the vast potential talent and skills which are wasted by the present system.