Sidelined and scorned: young people are set up to be soft targets in Australia


We are pleased to link to this article, Sidelined and scorned: young people are set up to be soft targets, by Michael Emslie, Lecturer in Youth Work at the RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Surveying a range of policy proposals relating to poverty, unemployment and family violence he notes that young people are either ignored or treated as children. He concludes:

The treatment of young people can be understood as an example of what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called symbolic violence. The omission of young people is an example of unequal age relations that are just taken for granted. Bourdieu suggests this is more insidious than the more obvious forms of prejudice……, because it normalises adults as those who get to say what can be said about and by young people and when. And those adults are oblivious to the pervasiveness of their dominance.

If we are serious about tackling the challenges facing many young people, such as poverty, unemployment and family violence, then we need to take a serious look at age-based prejudice. And this includes examining the understanding of and interventions in the lives of young people that such ageism engenders.

Michael would welcome response either here or on Facebook. Interesting that a few weeks ago Graeme Tiffany explored the notion of ‘childism’ in the post, Working with or doing to? Graeme Tiffany on childism, exploitation and youth work

Whither the Welfare State? Whither Youth Work? Whither Resistance?

It’s a grim Easter Monday – not a time for fools’ jokes. The Guardian declares:
It’s worth following the chronology of these changes as they come into effect over the next month.
It’s sobering to read alongside a piece by John Harris, which grapples with  the deeply uncomfortable dilemma, that many across society welcome the measures.

We have to talk about why some people agree with benefit cuts

Drawing on his conversations with folk as he has travelled the country – often finishing the dialogue on a note of ‘cut the scroungers’ benefits’ – he remarks,

In Warrington, Liverpool, Hartlepool, Peterborough and many other places, I have heard much the same stuff, and two rules always apply. First, as against the idea that disaffection with the benefits system amounts to a petit bourgeois roar from the suburbs, a lot of the noise gets louder as you head into the most disadvantaged parts of society. Second, it is the under-30s who have the most severe perspective of all. Polling bears this latter point out: in the aforementioned ComRes poll, the share of those aged 18-34 who thought a half or more of people on benefits were “scroungers” outstripped that of all other age groups by nearly 10 percentage points.

This last point needs to be explored further by those of us defending young people and youth work. It exposes the limitations of overemphasising ‘age’ as an explanatory category, the pitfalls of ‘ageism’. It is not only young people, who have been demonised via the mass media. The struggle to defend young people and youth work cannot be understood outside of the wider political struggle to resist the assault on the gains, however imperfect, of the post-war settlement between Capital and Labour. All of which poses the question of whether such resistance must go far beyond the achievements of ‘the spirit of ’45’ in terms of power and democracy.

In the coming months as well as revisiting the ethics of youth work through the Institute of Youth Work discussions, it’s time to renew a debate about the politics of youth work. The two are inextricably interrelated. What ethics in the service of what politics?

Unite the Generations! Not just a Youth Voice but A People's Voice?

We have received news of the following important initiative from Neil Duncan-Jordan, National Officer of the National Pensioners Convention [NPC].

This is a proposal from the NPC to launch a campaign later in the year to link the generations – and show that the division in society is between rich and poor rather than young and old. I’d be grateful of any comments/feedback and an idea if you and your organisation would support the campaign.

GENERATIONS UNITED For decent jobs and pensions


A growing number of politicians, media commentators, academics and think tanks are beginning to argue that today’s older generation have escaped the austerity measures at the expense of younger people. In doing so, they portray a conflict between the generations that is highly divisive and dangerous to our society. We must therefore respond by linking a number of key policy issues to show that young and old have a common interest.

Campaign demands

The National Pensioners Convention has long argued that the campaigns we organise today for existing pensioners, will also benefit future generations. In this sense, we are already committed to inter-generational solidarity and now we plan to build on this work by uniting with young people to campaign for their rights as well. We believe there are some key policy areas where this solidarity can be developed:

  • Raising the retirement age adds to the problem of rising youth unemployment and should be set at 65 for men and women
  • Everyone should be entitled to a decent state pension in retirement that takes them out of poverty
  • Young and older people have both suffered from government cuts, whilst the wealthiest in society have largely escaped. More should be done to ensure that big business and wealthy individuals pay their taxes
  • Public investment is essential to re-build Britain’s economy, creating training and employment for young people and improved services for all

Campaign details

We would seek to stage a rally/lobby event in mid to late October 2012 to raise these issues with politicians. The rally could include speeches, music and film – and would be aimed at an audience of both young and older people.

To support the event we could also consider local activities on the same day for those unable to get to London for the rally/lobby.

Campaign materials

We could consider producing explanatory leaflets about the campaign, postcards to be sent to MPs and posters, alongside launching an online petition which would seek to get over 100,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary debate.

Target audience

The NPC would seek to sign up trade union youth sections, alongside college/university students, young unemployed workers and youth workers/groups across the country.

Next steps

To form a small steering group of interested parties to organise the event and associated materials/activities. The aim would be to begin in June.

The IDYW Campaign Steering Group is fully supportive of this move by the NPC and we hope all our supporters will spread the word and open up the issues raised with young people. This inter-generational initiative raises important questions about the sometimes problematic character of the emphasis on ‘youth voice’ and ‘youth-proofing’ within youth work circles.  The right to vote notwithstanding, in reality the overwhelming majority of the population have little say in the crucial economic and political decisions determining the direction of society.  Focusing on age, forgetting its intimate relationship to class, gender and race, amongst other divisions, is an ever present danger within our work. We hope to post a fuller discussion of this dilemma in the coming weeks. For the present thanks again to the NPC for this challenging proposal – even if the demands are somewhat too decent and too mild!