Alex Philips, Surrey Socialist Party
Young workers today face the brutal combination of soaring inflation mixed with salaries that were already too low. Many jobs that young people take on are insecure, especially with the growing gig economy and increasing presence of zero-hour contracts where employers have no obligation to provide a minimum number of working hours. Those with the least savings are working the least secure jobs.
It’s no more optimistic for students and graduates. The maximum student maintenance loan for 2023 is £13,022 per year. This is equivalent to a nine-to-five worker being paid £6.30 per hour, well below the minimum wage.
To keep up with the rising cost of living, many university students are having to turn to part-time work, massively undermining their ability to learn and tackle the challenges of higher education.
Even after graduating, there is little hope for young workers when they face companies increasingly unwilling to train them and invest in their skills. Under our free-market economy, the capitalists make more money gambling on the stock and property markets than investing in workers.
Despite this depressing situation, we do see glimmers of hope, and the seeds of change. Even a poll by the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing think tank, found that “67% of young people say they would like to live in a socialist economic system”.
Ideas like nationalisation of key industries, removing the private sector from the NHS, and building houses for people, not profit, are the mainstream amongst young people now.
We held a Youth Fight for Jobs conference for supporters in the south east of England in early September. We discussed how, having grown up in a neoliberal, austerity-dominated world, until recently, young people had little chance to see workers’ collective power.
In the last year however, many young workers have gone on strike for the first time. And many students have seen their teachers, lecturers, and other workers collectively walk out over pay and conditions.
Strikes can win concessions and improved wages for example, but this will only be temporary without socialist system change. By fighting for these concessions, the confidence of workers and young people of their collective power can grow.
Alongside this we heard testimonies from young people and their struggle to push the frontlines of our movement forward.
At the conference, we also heard from those who have been pushing the unions for bold, militant, change. It is important now that we seize on the frustration young people have, and give them a movement and organisation that will help workers and young people to unite together to push for the future we deserve.