Why UNISON needs Young Members
Presently there are 683,000 people aged 16-24 (or 14.8%) who are looking for and available for work, meaning that the youth unemployment rate is nearly three times the unemployment rate for all workers aged 16+ (which is 5.4%). Although the unemployment rate in the UK for young people was already higher than for older age groups, the disparity between youth and adult unemployment rates grew dramatically during the recession, and has yet to return to pre-downturn levels.
Whilst youth employment has been on the upturn recently, from an international perspective we are badly letting our young people down. In comparison with other European countries, the UK has an unacceptably high ratio of youth to adult employment rates, which indicates that the UK’s young people are faring particularly badly in the labour market relative to older workers.
In 2014 19.6% of young workers were underemployed, more than double the percentage of any other age group. Underemployed workers are those people who have jobs but want to work more hours than they currently do. Young workers have consistently been twice as likely to be underemployed than workers in general, meaning it has become commonplace for them to be trapped in jobs that don’t have enough hours to provide the income they need.
A substantial number of working young people have jobs which fail to provide security in terms of hours or pay, with a high proportion in agency work and temporary, zero-hours or part-time contracts. A few examples of this would be:
255,000 young people (or 6.7%) are in zero hours contracts, meaning that the proportion of people in zero hours contracts is three times higher for young people than the adult population generally. A worker in a zero hours contract has no guaranteed hours and the employer has no obligation to provide work for them, despite the employee only receiving pay for the hours they work. Given the clear potential of such contracts to be exploitative, it is of great concern that zero hours contracts are many young people’s first experience of the labour market.
Much of the post-recession growth in self-employment is considered to be merely hidden unemployment. Self-employed weekly earnings are both uncertain and low, having fallen by 20% since 2006-07. Furthermore, some of the self-employed are very vulnerable to sudden income shocks, without rights to safety nets such as Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay. Young people have been traditionally the least likely to be self-employed, because of their lack of the experience and expertise usually required to make a start-up successful. Yet despite the risks of self-employment and their questionable suitability for it, at the beginning of this year almost 1 in 5 (18.5%) of working young people were self-employed. This represents a substantial increase, since 2005 the proportion of young people who are self-employed has increased more than for any other age group.
Young people’s wages fell disproportionately further than those of older workers during the downturn. Between 2009 and 2014 median hourly earnings for 22-29 year olds (excluding overtime and RPIJ-adjusted) fell by 12.7%, relative to a decrease of 9.3% for all employees. This has left the youngest workers earning less than half the average, with this lower pay extending even up to the 22-29 age group. The inevitable consequence of this low pay is young people finding it harder and harder to get by. The most recent figures show that 1 in 5 (22.4%) young people are at risk of poverty.
If you are not already a member of UNISON we want you to join our winning team. Why? Because working together means we can:
- make a positive difference to your pay, conditions, and workplace
- support each other when things go wrong at work
- build a more effective union that gets things done
For most of us being a young worker is a fantastic experience – a satisfying job, learning new skills, making money and new friends. Sadly, for many young people it just isn’t like that. Low pay, dangerous jobs, harassment, and bullying can make working a nightmare.
- organises to win improved working conditions and pay
- campaigns for better rights, and
- actively challenges harassment, bullying and inequality.
Over 75,000 young workers have already made the decision to join UNISON. They are making a significant impact in the union’s bargaining and campaigning agenda.
Young members officer
Welcome to Oxfordshire County UNISON by Maria Fawunmi
Report on UNISON Young Members Conference 2015
UNISON National Young Members Facebook Page
Unison National @YoungUNISON Twitter Feed