Originally published in ‘Militant Left’ Edition 6, Autumn 2022.
The worsening cost of living crisis is having a detrimental effect on the working class, especially young people. While the prices of essentials continue to increase, many young people are still working in low paid precarious jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Young unemployed people, for instance, still disgracefully receive a lower rate of Jobseekers Allowance. Students and apprentices are forced to work extra hours just to get by and many students on placements or apprentices are receiving less than minimum wage if they are even getting paid at all.
A recent survey showed that 84% of apprentices are being forced to cut down on essentials like food and heating, and 90% were under financial pressure.
A lot of apprentices are expected to pay for their often expensive tools and uniform out of their own pocket. The nature of the work often requires them to have their own transport, and while petrol and diesel prices are up 35% and 44% respectively, wages do not reflect that. The price of insurance is also extremely high for young drivers.
The rate of pay for an apprentice is lower than that of a qualified tradesperson, and many apprentices start off working below the minimum wage. There have been massive delays in accessing the classroom based training part of the course, with more than 7,000 people having to wait up to 18 months. These delays could prolong the length of the apprenticeship by a year or more, meaning employers can pay them less for longer.
Tradespeople provide highly skilled and necessary work, but those learning trades are barely able to keep afloat. We say that there should be a massive increase in funding for apprenticeships, an end to excessive waiting periods and for a living wage for all workers. The trade unions must include and fight in the interests of apprentices and young people. Young workers must get involved in their trade unions.
While we struggle to get by, billionaires all over the world are actually increasing their wealth! The cost of living crisis is going to continue to hit young people and we will be faced with no choice but to fight back against the capitalist system that puts the profit of the few ahead of ordinary people.