Hackney and Tower Hamlets continue to suffer from some of the worst unemployment rates in the UK, according to statistics released this week.
In East London, the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets have 6.8 per cent of the population claiming unemployment benefits compared to 4.2 per cent across the UK and 4.5 per cent across London. Young people are some of the worst affected.
Figures released on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics show that UK-wide unemployment has risen by 30,000 in the last the two months.
There are now just under 2.5 million unemployed people in the UK although some politicians believe it is much higher.
Suzanne Beishon, 22, from Hackney, has been unemployed since graduating from Brighton University in May with a degree in architecture.
Ms Beishon said she receives the lower rate of Job Seekers Allowance. She said: “Because I’m under twenty-five, it’s only £50 a week, which isn’t enough to live on, really, especially in London. My family help me out a little bit when they can, but it’s a struggle.”
She added that part of the problem for her is the collapse in the housing market, which has reduced the number of jobs for architecture graduates. She says most of her classmates have also failed to find work and those that have, are doing it without pay.
Since becoming unemployed Ms Beishon has been involved with the Youth Fight for Jobs group which campaigns for “decent jobs and a living wage for all”. She is not surprised by the latest unemployment figures and believes the government could do more.
“Billions are spent on bailing out the banks at the drop of a hat, yet when it comes to providing free education for all or decent jobs, there’s no money for it,” she said.
Charlotte Bence, 24 from the Hackney Unemployed Workers’ Group agrees: “There is a real lack of access to services and courses that could lead to jobs.
“If you look at the cost of university at the moment, the idea of getting yourself into debt to the tune of £3,000 a year is not appealing – and that is without considering living costs.”
She added: “People are put off by going to university because of this cost and things like apprenticeships and other routes into employment just aren’t available in the ways that they used to be. I think if access to education were made easier than it is at the moment then there would be a corresponding drop in unemployment figures.”
Commentators have raised concerns about a ‘lost generation’ of young people and the long-term social consequences of unemployment.
Unemployment can be damaging to individuals and to society as a whole, says Ms Bence. She said: “When you have whole sections of a community that are unemployed and who, crucially, are able and want to work, it leads to a sense of demoralisation and discontentment.”
Reacting to the latest figures, the government announced it would be creating 35,000 new jobs for young and long term unemployed people through its Future Jobs Fund. Government ministers said they were “determined to provide more help especially for young people”.
Trade unions, however, are less optimistic. The GMB’s Paul Kenny said that the government had not done enough to help unemployed people. He said:
“These figures show what a dismally bleak landscape there is for the jobless and their families as Christmas approaches, particularly for the young workers struggling to get into the labour market.”
Zillur Rahman, 24, Bow
“I’ve been out of work for 6 months. I used to work in interior design company but was made redundant. Now I’m looking for admin or office work or whatever’s about, really. It’s very tough at the moment, you apply for one job but 60 or 70 people apply for the same job. You lose all your confidence being unemployed. I’ve got friends who work in banks, they know they’re going to lose their jobs soon. Others have already lost their jobs. I think the government should do more to help people but they’re just sitting back while people lose their jobs.”
Alex, 22, Whitechapel
“I’ve been out of work since I finished studying politics at uni this year. It’s really tough, you come to the job centre and they don’t really help you out. They want you to jump through hoops. It feels like rather than help you get a job, they are trying to stop you getting your benefits. It makes you feel pretty alienated from what’s going on around us. Like down the road is the City with all the millionaires and then ten minutes walk away in Whitechapel there’s deprivation and poverty. The government don’t care about us they just look after big businesses and the bankers.”
Kayleigh Callaghan, 19, Stepney
“I’ve been unemployed for six months. I was a hairdresser for a year before that. It feels bad being out of work, it’s boring and I’m constantly searching for jobs. All my friends have jobs so I’m lonely in the day.”
Ashiq Baluch, 21, Bethnal Green
“I used to be a dancer but I haven’t had a job for two years now. It’s not great being out of work, especially at my age. I need money to go out and stuff. I’ve done bits of work in the building trade with my Dad, but that’s all dried up. I want to get back into dancing.”
Jen Ainsley, 24, Brick Lane
“I’ve been signing on for six months. Before that I was in New Zealand doing work experience in marketing. Being unemployed makes you feel like shit. I’m always so skint, I want a job but I’m never on a high, it makes it hard looking for a job. I want to get my foot in the door but a lot of employers only offer unpaid internships but you can’t do that as it breaches the conditions of your dole because they say you’re not available for work.”