On June 8th, it is crucial that young people head to the polling station and cast their vote in the General Election. Whatever changes are being implemented now, they will affect our generation – young people – more than they will ever affect the politicians implementing them. This election in particular is extremely important, since the next Parliament will be shaping a post-Brexit Britain. Therefore, we must ensure our interests are represented and considered when conducting negotiations.
Moreover, a high turnout of 18-24 year olds will put young people’s issues on the political agenda. Once we turn out to vote, we send the message that young people are engaged, aware and want to influence their future. We will have to be heard by decision makers.
A significant issue that I am very passionate to see the next Parliament implement is a real national living wage, for young people. This is a key issue for my generation, since the minimum wage for under 25’s is lower than for those over 25. The Real Living Wage is an hourly rate of pay, calculated independently that reflects the cost of living in the UK. It is set as £8.45 across the UK with the exception of £9.75 in London. However, the government’s current living wage falls short of the real living wage by a considerable margin, and is only £7.05 for under 25’s. This is not good enough. Young people across the UK should be afforded the right to earn a wage that enables them to live.
What’s more is that young people can be paid less than their older counterparts for the same job, same hours and same work! This needs to change, as the assumption that young people don’t need as much as over 25’s to live is absurd. A real national living wage for young people has been a key issue that young people raised and was our national priority campaign following over 200k votes in our Make your Mark consultation in 2015.
I hope that the next Parliament will make this a priority and start a dialogue with young people in shaping the future of their country.
If you were to google ‘millennials are’, the words that come after are not inspiring; ‘lazy’, ‘stupid’ or ‘screwed’. This isn’t by chance, it’s part of a wider narrative.
My generation – those who are currently under 25 – are constantly undervalued and undermined.
We’re seen as selfish and entitled, bone-idle and boorish.
Nothing could be further from the truth – young people care. We care about our families and our friends, our schools and hospitals. We care about our future employment and the future of the earth.
Why are we not listened to, or taken seriously?
The first answer is very simple – often our legitimate voices are taken away from us. It simply makes no sense not to enfranchise 16 and 17 year-olds.
The Scottish Referendum showed us that 16 and 17 year-olds will make their views heard if given the opportunity and that all votes are equal to others.
The idea that you can work, pay taxes, marry or die for your country but can’t vote for the people who make those decisions – based on arguments that have essentially boiled down to mental capability and societal norms – is obviously nonsense.
They’re the same arguments that were used to not extend the vote to women and BME communities, many years ago.
We would urge the next government to extend this long denied right, which is quickly becoming a consensus opinion.
This could be the first step of many in making politics accessible to young people – electoral reform, localism, greater representation for young people and digitising our democracy would all give voice to those who are currently voiceless.
The second is that it’s far too easy to ignore us, even when we turn up. Brexit being the prime example. 70% of young people voted Remain, and were outvoted by older generations who won’t have to see the long-term consequences.
Which was an act of democracy, which we respect. What we cannot respect is the systematic undermining of the voices of young people over the single most important issue of the next 10 years. Education funding, Erasmus Plus, free movement, employment and jobs will be shaped for generations to come without input from the generation that it will come down on.
We would urge the next government to involve young people in the future of Brexit as soon as possible.
This will be the shape of the next five years, and a priority for the Government. There are opportunities in Brexit, as well as risks – A Brexit that puts young people’s futures at risk is not a Brexit we can get behind. Young people need to be able to travel to work and study, to share with different cultures and to have clean air to breath.
One clear ask of the next government – give young people the voice we deserve.
Because if you give young people the power over our futures – we won’t just change a Google search term – we’ll change the world.