Unemployed Youth: the Lost Generation

youthRecovery? What Recovery?

High youth unemployment is a defining characteristic of the current recession. Despite the so-called recovery, a fifth or more of young people under thirty remain unemployed. In most countries, youth joblessness is triple the general unemployment rate. In some regions with harsh austerity regimes, youth unemployment is increasing.

In the US the preferred approach to youth unemployment, both by government and the media, is to ignore it. Elsewhere the attitude towards youth unemployment is mixed. In Europe, the European Commission has appropriated $1 billion euros to address youth joblessness. Yet only Germany and Switzerland have come up with real solutions.

Pundits offer a variety of explanations for the stubborn problem of youth unemployment: globalization (i.e. jobs moving to the third world), automation (i.e. replacement of jobs with robots), the greed of baby boomers who refuse to retire (greasing the wheels for social security and pension cuts) and government policies that allow billionaires to suck all the money out of the economy for their personal pleasure.

An increasing number of economists see youth unemployment as symptomatic of structural economic changes related to the end of global growth. Despite all the corporate media babble about perpetual economic growth, the phenomenon is actually quite new. Prior to the harnessing of fossil fuels by the industrial revolution, all human civilizations were based on steady state economies.

Of the three documentaries below, the first, from Canada, is the best. Portraying youth unemployment as a permanent structural problem, it’s highly critical of the Canadian government for refusing to address it.

The four important points Generation Jobless (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2014) makes are

1) by 2030 half of all the current jobs will be gone
2) the “lost generation” (the 20% of Canadians under thirty who remain unemployed) is highly unlikely to ever land permanent good-paying jobs
3) Canadian universities are training young people for obsolete jobs instead of offering them new skills needed in the present economy.
4) Canada’s student loan program is a fraud – students are pressured to take on vast amounts of debt on the promise of good paying jobs that don’t exist.

The film disputes the frequent claim that a large aging population is a drag on the Canadian economy – the real drag on the economy is the underutilization of Canadian youth. This has drastic implications for the future health of the Canadian economy. Most of a society’s wealth comes from the skills of its workforce.

This first documentary also highlights two examples of programs that are successfully cutting youth unemployment, one at the University of Regina (UR) in Saskatchewan and the other in Switzerland.

The UR Guarantee program, which promising all entering students will be placed in a job on graduation, has a 97% success rate. From day one, the curriculum for all students includes career counseling and career education, consisting resume writing, interview skills and networking. Students also participate in an apprenticeship program in their chosen field, thanks to a cooperative agreement UR has with local businesses. Finally, they get a guarantee: any graduate who fails to find work in six months returns for an extra year (free of charge) to further hone their skills.

In Switzerland, youth unemployment is 2.8% (roughly a tenth of other industrialized countries), thanks to a high school program that allows them to start an apprenticeship at fifteen. The Swiss Employers’ Association helps local high schools set up their apprenticeships, which include white collar fields, such as health care, banking and IT, as well as the traditional trades.

The 2013 BBC documentary Young and Jobless is less hard hitting. Unlike the CBC documentary, it fails to emphasize the failure of the British government to acknowledge or address the problem of youth unemployment. In fact, it tends to trivialize the problem by comparing superficial snapshots of youth unemployment in different countries.

That being said, there’s an excellent segment about lawsuits American young people have filed (and won) against corporations that have exploited them via unpaid internships.

I was also intrigued by the number of countries that deal with youth employment by encouraging young people to emigrate (as we do in New Zealand). In Spain, for example, there are specific programs to assist Spanish youth in locating jobs in the UK. In contrast, Irish youth are encouraged to emigrate to Australia.

Video 3 Young, Jobless and Living at Home is a 2014 BBC documentary about the “boomerang generation,” the growing tendency of young people under thirty to move in with their parents, either because they can’t find jobs or because they can only find low paid, part time and/or temporary work that doesn’t cover their living expenses. Radio DJ Grey James follows six unemployed youth for six months.

The statistics say it all: in 2014 20% of young Brits under thirty were unemployed but twice as many (40%) were living with their parents.

photo credit: Caelie_Frampton via photopin cc

Also published in Veterans Today

A Rebel Comes of Age by Stuart Bramhall

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I was really touched by this review, by a teen blogger, of my young adult novel. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that “teenage-related problems” made the book seem more real for her. Her revelation that she has never read a book like this also grabbed me. I guess it’s pretty rare to encounter books on protest and political change in modern bookstores and libraries.

Is a College Degree Worth the Cost?

janitor

The Best Educated Janitors in the World

Given the $962 billion Americans owe in student loan debt, it seems reasonable to ask what a college degree buys them in employability and future income.

Not much according to a recent Online Degree feature revealing that 33,655 PhDs and 239,029 master’s degree recipients are on food stamps. American janitors are the most educated in the world, with 5,000 of them holding doctorates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 1/3 of US college graduates work in jobs not requiring a bachelor’s degree.

Peter Schiff’s recent encounter with college grads in New Orleans is also extremely revealing:

photo credit: an untrained eye via photopin cc

Crossposted at Daily Censored and Veterans Today

 

Teen Homelessness: An American Disgrace

homeless teen

(Sharing some of my research for my new novel A Rebel Comes of Age.)

In the US, children under 18 represent one-third of the US homeless population. 2.8 million American children have at least one episode of homelessness every year, while 1.35 million are permanently homeless.

Sadly it’s not a new problem. Seattle first became concerned about their homeless teens in the 1990s. In 1999, shortly before moving to New Zealand, I worked in a community clinic with a special outreach program for homeless teenagers.

Prior to the 2008 economic meltdown, approximately ten percent of homeless teens had access to state and city-run shelters. Over the last five years, chronic state and city budget deficits have forced  most of them to close.

US Teen Homelessness Rivals the Third World

In third world countries, homeless children are called “street kids.” The US government prefers to call them “unaccompanied minors.” Giving it a fancy name on it doesn’t hide the fact that rate of homeless American children per capita is worse than some third world countries.

Among countries who keep a count of homeless children under 18, India has the highest rate of street children per capita, with 1 homeless child per 61 residents. Egypt is next with 1 per 110, then Pakistan (1 per 120), Kenya (1 per 133), Russia (1 per 141), and Congo (1 per 148).

The per capita rate of child homelessness in the US is 1 per 245 residents. This is worse than the Philippines (1 per 360), Honduras (1 per 370), Jamaica (1 per 419), Uruguay (1 per 1,000), and Morocco (1 per 1066). Germany, in contrast, has 1 homeless child per 4,100 residents.

Why American Teens Become Homeless

Approximately fifty percent of homeless teenagers wind up on the streets due to conflict with their parents. Another twenty percent are there due to a breakdown of their foster care placement. Others are homeless because their parents are homeless.

Of teenagers made homeless by family conflict, forty percent are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual teens whose parents refuse to accept their sexuality (25% of LGBT teens are rejected by their parents). Another large proportion are victims of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. Forty percent of homeless teenagers report being beaten. Twenty-five percent report a history of sexual abuse. Forty percent have parents who are mentally ill or who have substance abuse problems. Ten percent have run away because they’re pregnant. Some leave home because of alcohol and drug problems of their own.

Many homeless teens work at minimum wage jobs that don’t pay enough for an apartment. However faced with a (true) unemployment rate over 20%, most face long term unemployment.

Good links regarding teen homelessness:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_children

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/teen-angst/201101/homeless-teens

http://globalgeopolitics.net/wordpress/2011/03/31/u-s-budget-cuts-threaten-handful-of-beds-for-homeless-youth/

http://www.shelterhouse.on.ca/article/youth-homelessness-147.asp

http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/background-11-causes-teen-homelessness

photo credit: Tanya Dawn via photopin cc

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Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351

The Rally

Rebel cover

A Rebel Comes of Age – release date Dec 21, 2013

Another Excerpt from my young adult novel (from Chap 22)

When Clemente finally took the microphone, the stretch of McDonough between Patchen and Malcolm X was wall-to-wall people. The hip-hop activist, an attractive, thirty-something Latino woman with short, curly black hair and enormous gold ear loops, wore a dark blue hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin.

“Brothers and sisters, look at us,” she proclaimed. “When hip hop fights back, watch out.” At this, the crowd broke into ecstatic applause, accompanied by whistling and cheering. When the uproar died down, she called up all eighteen Freedom House residents and their sixteen Mandela House counterparts and lined them up on either side of her. “This isn’t a building we’re fighting for today. We’re here to support this phenomenal group of young people. They are our soul and conscience. Like Van Jones says, it’s time to change from fighting against something to fighting for something. No matter what we believe, what we all want, nothing advances or happens without organizing. Lots of it.”

Reverend McLeod came to the stage in a dark gray ski jacket rather than his usual suit and overcoat. Ange assumed that this was to distinguish between his activist and ministerial role. He began by complaining how sick he was of Wall Street’s longstanding pattern of theft from the African American community.

“Yah suh,” a woman in the front row came back, as if they were in church.

“First, it was our supermarkets, then our schools and now our homes. Surely the time has come to say enough.”

“Um-hmn,” the woman agreed.

“The time has surely come,” another woman echoed.

“Marches and rallies aren’t enough to check this power. The time has come, brothers and sisters, to put our bodies on the line. As Reverend Martin Luther King did. People of conscience are called on to break unjust laws, just like our brothers and sisters in Occupy Brooklyn who secured a home for brother Carasquillo and his family.”

He paused dramatically for this to sink in. “Where will you be, brothers and sisters, when the sheriff comes to put these young people out in the street? Will you all be comfortably at home watching American Idol or whatever nonsense they are showing now? Or will you be here with them?” His voice soared. “I tell you where I will be, brothers and sisters. I will be here in front of this building. No matter if the sheriff’s officers come at dinner time or midnight or three in the morning, they will have to walk through me.” He paused again. “Who will join me?”

The reaction from the crowd was stunned silence, followed by quiet murmuring. When Ange turned to look around, she saw the ten live-in protestors and six Occupy activists tentatively raise their hands. “Um-hmn-um,” McLeod vocalized reprovingly. “Looks to me like a long, lonely night.”

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A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc

An Occupy Wall Street Novel

Rebel cover

My new novel, A Rebel Comes of Age, is scheduled for release (as a $3.99 ebook) on December 21, 2013.

It’s a sequel to my first young adult novel, The Battle for Tomorrow. In the first book, sixteen-year-old Angela Jones is arrested and sent to juvenile hall for participating in a blockade and occupation of the US Capitol. The sequel takes place a year later, when she and four homeless teenagers occupy an empty commercial building owned by Bank of America. Their goal: to transform it into a teen homeless shelter.

Over the next five months, they work through all the typical problems of inner city teenagers – including raging hormones, the temptation of drugs and alcohol, racial tensions, and pregnancy – as they struggle to win community acceptance. When Bank of America obtains a court order evicting them, the adventure turns deadly serious as they realize lives are on the line. When the other residents decide to use automatic weapons to keep the police SWAT team out, Ange experiences a major personal crisis and is forced to re-examine her attitudes towards guns and violence.

The Lost Generation – Life After Work

A Rebel Comes of Age explores the question of life after work. In the five years since the 2008 economic meltdown, 25-40% of 18-30 year olds still find themselves permanently excluded from the workforce. What we are looking at, in essence, is an entire generation sidelined to the fringes of society. Despite all the government and media hype, the capitalist economic system is incapable of creating jobs for them.

We are all conditioned to believe that life without full time work is unlivable. I seriously question the validity of this viewpoint. As a species, human beings occupied the planet quite happily for 250,000 years without selling their labor to a wealthy elite. Two centuries ago, the concept of waged work was virtually unknown, and most of the world’s current seven billion inhabitants are officially classified as “unemployed.”

With more equitable distribution of economic resources, freeing people from the drudgery of work opens up infinite possibilities for more creative and socially productive activities. Some analysts attribute the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to unemployed youth taking up social and political activism as an alternative to work.

A Rebel Comes of Age provides a brief snapshot of a group of homeless, unemployed teenagers who find themselves building a movement, without quite realizing this is what they are doing.

My next post will feature an excerpt from Chapter 1.

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A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

  • Kindle edition available after Dec 15

 

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc