Christmas Misery & Shame
MOST readers of this magazine who have jobs and are earning decent living wages will be looking forward to Christmas as a time of good cheer, exchanging gifts, enjoying fine food and drink and celebrating with family and friends. But for many in Britain today the so-called ‘season of goodwill’ will mean only desolation and despondency.
The gap between rich and poor in the UK is widening, according to recent figures. Over 5 million people in this country are stuck in low-paid jobs, twice as many as last year with almost 25% having been on the minimum wage for the last five years (the minimum wage being rated as over 20% lower than the living wage!) Also the growth of irregular or casual jobs and so-called zero hours contracts is adding to feelings of hopelessness for many families with over a million Brits having to rely on food banks.
Its effect on children is particularly shocking. The charity Unicef claims that child poverty in the UK is rising sharply as a direct result of the Government’s harsh austerity measures with one in four children in the UK now living in poverty; it ranks Britain 25th out of 41 developed nations for allowing the global economic crisis to hurt the most vulnerable families. Oxfam, meanwhile, says five of the UK’s richest families own more than 12 million poorest.
A related issue and even more alarming is long-term youth unemployment, reputedly the highest for over 20 years. Currently over 750,000 people under 25 in the UK have no jobs, some never having been in work. The Prince’s Trust charity reveals that many young people experience symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of being jobless, including suicidal thoughts, self-harm, panic attacks, insomnia and anger problems.
The Prince’s Trust summarised the long term youth unemployment situation: ‘The UK could be at risk of a youth jobs crisis. If we fail to invest in our young adults we are storing up trouble for the future.’
But it’s a vicious circle! Employers aren’t interested in applicants without qualifications. For many bosses there just isn’t enough incentive to recruit to train. Of course, there is government lip service to apprenticeships and the like, but it’s clearly had insufficient effect.
Poverty is a side of our society that some politicians don’t see or just choose to ignore. And with the general election only a few months away, government ministers (especially those who are billionaires) will be doing their utmost to bolster the ‘feel good factor’ among potential voters. ‘Didn’t we do well for you (and us)! You can’t trust the other bunch!’ Those who are deprived generally don’t support the incumbents, so the poor and poverty won’t be paid much attention in the political debates or in the media.
Any employers reading this who are contemplating a New Year’s resolution, it has to be: ‘Training! Training! Training!’
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.