Last Autumn there were occasions when I would have cereal for my lunch. Not because I’m a huge fan of Muesli, but because there would be no bread in the house and I didn’t want to be seen at the local shop. I was an out-of-work graduate and feared the awkwardness of being accosted by a family friend and being asked the dreaded question: “What are you doing with yourself nowadays?”
In January this year YouGov found that 9% of young people feel they have “nothing to live for”. The poll found that this was linked to employment – 16-25 year olds in long-term unemployment were found to be twice as likely to be prescribed antidepressants or have suicidal thoughts.
There was a shocked reaction to this poll by some. For me, it merely confirmed my suspicions that I wasn’t the only person to go through feelings of panic-stricken worthlessness whilst trying to find full-time employment.
The more you think about your predicament, the worse it becomes. It feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel and you start to question what you, personally, have done to get yourself into this situation. At times like this my heartbeat would quicken and an overwhelming sense of dread and paranoia would kick in.
David Cameron proclaims that young people should be ‘learning or earning’, without offering a solution to the problem. This empty rhetoric doesn’t help unemployed young people; it just demonises them and cuts them off from society. I know that in this difficult period I was made to feel like a social pariah and, judging by the above survey, so do a huge chunk of the 960,000 unemployed youngsters in Britain. I may not have felt there was nothing to live for, like some of my peers in the survey, but my emotions at this time demonstrate that unemployment at a young age can have a severely negative effect on your mental state.
There are not necessarily more or less graduate jobs than there were five years ago, but prospects for graduates are much worse: the number of people completing a university degree has increased exponentially, whilst the number of jobs for this level of education has not. This means that many more find themselves hunting around for a graduate job for several months before settling into a tedious non-graduate job just for some stability.
Unemployment is slowly decreasing, but the jobs that are on offer are not jobs for those straight out of university. The sad reality seems to be that several young people will continue to suffer from the debilitating experience of being young and jobless.