On the 13th September 2017, Jean-Claude Juncker made his address at the State of The Union conference, followed by a lively debate. Whilst the speech was strong, containing many positive goals and work for the future, the absence of a voice concerning specific young people’s issues was not unnoticed.
Little was said about Britain’s exit from the European Union, dubbed ‘Brexit’, a period of political uncertainty for many Europeans as well as Britons; with 72% of young people voting for remain, an insight into where we stand before March 19th 2019 as well as beyond would have allowed for further discussions into cooperation. Perhaps this vague statement of regret was strategic, or simply a note on not to dwell on the past, rather focusing on the unity of the future. However, if this is the direction that the UK Government has decided to go down, we need to inform and explain the process to people, rather than brush it off.
Young people were notably absent from the speech. Juncker touched on the creation of 8 million jobs, failing to mention that there has been a rise in youth unemployment. It is important to note that work experience is a topic at the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark vote this year and similar issues have risen for many years prior.
Something I noticed in particular, as someone at the age where working is necessary not only for experience but also to fund my studies, was the mention of second class citizens in regards to the workplace. As mentioned by the European Youth Forum as part of their reaction to the address, young people themselves are often seen as the second class citizens, rarely mentioned in any parliamentary debate unless the issue is directly specific to them. Leaving them out of this address is testament to this; young people should be engaged not ignored. In internships, especially for jobs with unpredictable and differing pay systems such as the arts and entertainment industry, young people are often exploited under the guise of ‘experience’ and used instead for cheap labour. Young people mustn’t be used as a tokenistic, or exploited resource, and have the right to be paid for the same labour as adults.
The support of Erasmus was a beacon of positivity in regards to encouraging young people’s involvement in international cooperation. The support of the Erasmusx10 campaign could help combat issues of youth unemployment by providing young people with a plethora of extra skills, experiences and confidence, and having support on an European level can only strengthen this initiative.
Getting more young people involved in politics starts from making them feel included in what is currently predominantly an older person’s world. Engagement comes from acknowledgment, and I feel that the issues and therefore the voice of young people was somewhat lost during what could have been a perfect platform to reassure EU youth that they are not the ‘second class’ citizens previously mentioned by Juncker, but rather equal and valued alongside adults and therefore motivated to make change as the future of the world.
UKYA to European Youth Forum