Belfast Telegraph

How will young find work when the old have all the jobs?

By Lindy McDowell

Like valiant members of a slimming group who've just had a double cream chocolate gateaux passed beneath their noses, MPs this week pursed their lips with displeasure, shook their heads in mock dismay and held up a hand in unanimous, righteous refusal at the idea – the very idea – that they might be tempted to partake of an extra 11% in salary.

"Unthinkable", "preposterous" and "wholly unacceptable" is just some of the language being used by politicians themselves to describe the plan. "Me? Have that big slice? Heavens above, no! Do you take me for a pig?!"

The 11% add-on plan is the work of the Independent Parliamentary Standing Authority which, in fairness, could have been forgiven for assuming that a pay hike would be popular with MPs.

Given that during anonymous interviews with sitting members some months back, almost 70% said they deserved one.

The tricky part now for our elected elite is how to accept this proposed rise without looking ... well ... as though they find it acceptable. Especially at a time when most other workers out there have seen their own pays frozen for longer than an Antarctic ice sheet.

Your heart just bleeds for MPs caught up in this quandary, doesn't it? Or it would do, if it wasn't already bleeding for all those others out there whose current employment problems actually evoke your genuine sympathy.

On the one hand there are the young people who are beginning to fear they'll be well into their 70s before they even manage to find a job.

On the other, those in a job who fear they'll be well into their 70s before they can afford to leave.

Where the young unemployed are concerned, Sir Stuart Rose, formerly with M&S, was in the news this week advising those after a job to stop blaming immigrants and get out there and find work.

He's absolutely right, of course, that it's wrong to blame hard-working migrants.

But is it really as simplistic as he suggests, that young people in the UK are far too choosy (and lazy?) when it comes to deciding where they want to work and that they should just, to coin a phrase, get on their bikes and on a payroll?

The big killer stumbling block that fells many young people seeking work is "experience". A quick flick through recruitment ads shows that just about every vacancy these days asks for some sort of "experience".

You can't blame the employers for demanding previous in the job advertised. Why train up someone when they could employ a worker with a ready knowledge of what the role requires? But the knock-on effect is that many young people without the means of gaining this "experience" are finding it almost impossible to get their first full-time position.

And God only knows how long it will take this beleaguered generation to gather up the pension pot that will keep them in what, presumably, will be their very old age.

Meanwhile, the rest of us see the pension goalposts being moved ever further off over the horizon.

Obviously the implications of this will be more testing for some rather than others. Some jobs just aren't suited to the septuagenarian.

Have the politicians thought this one through? You'd be tempted to think they may not have given it quite as much thought as they have the thorny issue of how to manoeuvre that very tasty 11% extra helping on to their plates without the rest of us saying "tut, tut".

What may comfort them is the knowledge that, should the worst come to the worst and the voters dump them for their greed, at least MPs always have the gold-plated pension to fall back upon.

And – another plus for parliamentarians – unlike the rest of us, they won't have to outlive Methuselah to claim it.

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