Gen-Y joblessness sows even more angst

by YES! Staff

It all begins with jobs, we like to say around here. We are of the opinion that what most people want is somewhere to go for eight hours or so a day, something useful to do with their time and, at the end of the week, to make enough money to feed, house and clothe themselves and their families.

So it seems to us that the most pressing issue of the day is not massive stock-market losses — the Dow Jones Industrial Average has famously fallen about 50 percent from its all-time high in October 2007, but that is merely a symptom of the larger crisis in which we are embroiled. And though we are downright angry at the federal bailout system in place to support what were once the country’s richest companies, it seems to be shaping up as an ineffective tool against a much larger problem — massive layoffs and the attendant unemployment rate. The huge cash infusions may even be exacerbating the situation. Whatever. The national unemployment rate was at 8.1 percent last month — our state came in at 10.3 percent — and the number is trending upward. The numbers are disturbing on their own, but parse them a bit and the details reveal a more troubling statistic. People in their twenties, many of them fresh out of college or grad school, constitute much of the underutilized labor pool. Just about 13 percent of eligible US workers age 20-24 are unemployed; the rate drops to 10.9 percent for those between 25-29, well ahead of the national average. And while the effects of the greater unemployment rate cannot be understated, folks in their twenties have their own set of problems. Older workers have more or less been indoctrinated into the labor pool — many have likely seen hard times before, and can rely on experience, connections, savings and accumulated social capital to continue their career paths or forge new ones. And many are able to retire with pensions or Social Security. But all most men and women under 30 years old have going for them is optimism, enthusiasm and energy — qualities that pale in the face of hard experience and past successes. Along with this youthful exuberance, however, comes a sense of rage and injustice that young people tend to personalize. And when you have a sizable chunk of an entire generation unable to find meaningful employment, you have the makings of a revolution. Young people, particularly this generation, which is educated, organized, idealistic and politically active, cannot go quietly into this good night. With nothing to do all day, people in their twenties will likely take to the streets in protest of the dearth of jobs available to them, using modern communications tools like Twitter, blogs, wikis and text messaging to strengthen their organization. As their numbers grow, so should the scope of their influence. There is much historical precedence for this, with varied results. In Ireland in the ’70s and ’80s, unemployed youth organized into the Youth Labour Party, which eventually shed its militant image and became a powerful coalition in that country’s parliament. But Greece has in the last six months seen student protests that turned violent, causing damages over three days that totaled $1.5 billion. Spain, with a 14-percent overall unemployment rate, is bracing for similar action. France faces the same predicament. Here in the states, the tinder continues to pile. A few more months of this, and all it will need is a match.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.