The Price of Your Free Market

People aged 17-24 are facing a financial crisis. The latest warning from the charity Citizens Advice attributes the growing number of young people in debt with increased dependency on high-interest pay-day loans. Seems our youth are being forced to take out loans to keep up with the rising costs of their financial obligations; food on the table, roof overhead, smartphone contract, etc.

With increasing numbers of people turning to charities and food banks to survive, I’m left crossing my fingers that there’s a charity to help me cover the rent in the next 5 years, or I too will become a bleak pay-day-loan statistic.

Consider for a moment that the number of children raised in poverty in Britain has risen year on year since 2010, should we not start to acknowledge that Britons on the breadline are no longer just in housing estates or on benefits? When 53% of children in privately rented accommodation are living below the poverty line in this country do we not need to address the real problems facing Britain; cost of living and wealth distribution?

As I write this I’m sat in London, in a £6500 a year off-the-books bedsit-box-room with mice and damp that I pay for in cash. And after a £400 deposit and no receipt, I feel I’m earning my stripes for the financially fucked generation of Britons aptly dubbed; ‘generation rent’. Like many 20-somethings around the country, 50 years of service… at minimum wage… for a borrowed bedsit, isn’t much of an incentive for me to play my part in your ‘Big Society’.

The most recent economic forecast I had the misfortune of reading stated that by 2020 the average 10% deposit on a house in London is expected to set you back £150,000. Those forced to rent will enjoy annual rental costs of £21k a year, plus bills, and while Mr Osborne has ‘promised’ to raise minimum wage to £7.20 an hour next year, lets remember that still leaves a 40-hour-a-week worker £6000 short of their annual rent before tax.

That’s the reality of George’s long-term economic policy; hard times for the hard-up, to create sustainable instability and force the hand of the worker by making them work harder for longer and pay more for less. So, if you’re on the poverty line in this country, you’d be wise to consider your financial future. And quick.

Traditionally, small numbers of the poor have escaped threadbare beginnings through sport and entertainment. We look back fondly on the rags to reaches stories of The Beatles, Oasis, and the Manny Pacquiao’s of the world. We relish the against-all-odds success of our under-dog contemporaries and take comfort from the idea that anybody can become somebody in spite of humble beginnings. It’s a notion close to the hearts of pigeon-holed blue-collard workers world-over.

Sadly that’s it. A notion. One that an opulent British elite has rebranded, re-packaged and sold-back to a disenfranchised consumerist market in the form of TV talent shows that promise to one day launch us all to stardom and deliver us from the reality of our financial shortcomings… Meanwhile… The bills keep mounting… Prices keep rising… And I’m left thinking, maybe it’s time we accept that we aren’t all Susan Boyles; some of us are just old and fat and Scottish. Maybe it’s time the rest of us thought about getting a trade to get by?

Apprenticeships have long been an escape route for choice those less than enamoured with minimum-wage employment prospects as well as those lacking the financial security to commit to University and its fees. Thankfully it’s a route that is still available today. Conservatives have hailed figures that more than 2.2 million new apprenticeships have been created since 2010 and have announced plans to create 3 million more by 2020.

And you thought the Tories only gave a shit about their own, shame on you. Modern-day Conservatives appear to be offering a further 3 million young people from low-income backgrounds the chance to escape their abject poverty, to make money while equipping them with the skills they need to obtain a more comfortable and fulfilling future.

But, ‘appearances’ can be deceiving and I beg you not to be so easily misled. The reality behind such positive statics is sadly a far more depressing and predictable political slight of hand, one that continues to add to my utter disenfranchisement with politics, this country and the human race as a whole.

Delve a little deeper and you realise these ‘new’ apprenticeship schemes offer no future prospects, equate to no more value than 5 GCSEs and that less than 3% are equivalent to A-levels. They ultimately boil down to 2 years cheap labour in the same pre-determined, pre-allocated, proletariat employment positions the working class have been bred for since time immemorial. Minimum wage.

If you don’t believe me take a look at the bare bones of these schemes and bear in mind the Primark positions of shelf-stackery they qualify you to do; the wage you make against your time gaining your ‘qualification’, as well as the cost of rent and living, and that’s if your employer decides to keep you on instead of replacing you with one of the next 3 million hopefuls willing to serve two years cheap labour on a Politicians’ promise of greener pastures.

The following are genuine apprenticeships from http://www.gov.uk:

-Apprentice Warehouse Assistant (40 hours a week)
Role: Picking and packing orders, stacking shelves, help with ‘goods in’ and cleaning.
Pay: £150 a week
Duration: 15 months

-Apprentice Shop Assistant (40 hours a week)
Role: Greeting customers, stacking shelves and cleaning the store.
Pay: £109.20 a week.
Duration: 1 year

-Apprentice Admin Assistant (37 hours a week)
Role: Answering phone, filing, photocopying and processing post.
Pay: £101.01 a week
Duration: 1 year

To put it in context, new Tory Apprenticeship schemes allow employers to pay less than half of the minimum wage to new workers, while simultaneously receiving state-subsidies to train you in floor sweeping and shelf-stacking. Yes, plenty of positions are being created, but none that will breed engineers or masons or plumbers, none that offer the skilled technical training that will lead to a better financial future for the working-class, none that we’ll help you make the rent or qualify for an increasingly expensive mortgage. They serve only to line the pockets political affiliates, misinform those who may otherwise object and consolidate conservative policy.

You complained about your zero-hours contracts and now you’ve had them taken away… But don’t worry, stack your shelves, go back to you bedsits and stream some TV on that payment-plan laptop. Didn’t you know? Britain’s Got Talent. It’s just a shame that it’s not on apprenticeship schemes these days…

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