Young voters care passionately about issues such as job security – an issue that has not been centre stage of the current election campaign.
A recent Opinium survey for Brexit Watch, run by the thinktank Common Vision, found that ensuring jobs were available was the key concern for young voters (8.02 per cent).
But the number of young voters in the 2015 general election, with 43 percent of 18-24 year olds attending the polls compared to 78 percent of 65 and overs, was extremely low. This is equal to around two million potential votes (Ipsos MORI, 2015).
David Cowling, a political opinion polling specialist at King’s College London told the BBC: “If two million more 18-24-year-olds voted in elections, do we really think that issues like housing, low paid, insecure jobs and student fees would not immediately move up the political agenda?”
Issues such as the security of jobs and the living wage, as well as the effects of Brexit on the movement of people to work and travel could all have an impact on young people and their future plans. Could the extra two million votes get these issues noticed this time around?
The main parties have all made different proposals about these areas in their manifestos.
The Living Wage, according to both Labour and the Conservatives, will have been modified by 2020. While the Labour Party plan to increase the National Living Wage to at least £10 an hour (it currently sits at £9.40), also raising minimum wage to a similar level, the Conservatives are looking to regulate the Living Wage to be at 60% of the median income in Britain, claiming this is “a decent living wage” in the manifesto.
So what does this mean for young people?
The Conservatives state in their manifesto that “people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers”. Typically, when students leave college or university to find a job, they tend to go into lower paid jobs. In fact, in 2014 41 percent of graduates in London went into non-graduate roles straight out of university. (ONS Annual Population Survey)
In east London, the percentage of people earning less than the London Living Wage stands at: 31 percent in Croydon and Hackney; 27 percent in Lewisham and 32 percent in Tower Hamlets.
So, the Living Wage being raised, as proposed by both front-running parties, appears to benefit east London on the whole.
Matt Wilson, a member of the Labour Party, told ELL: “More people are living in poverty in work now, we need a decent living wage.”
Another issue very present in this year’s election is Britain’s exit from the European Union.
In terms of general views on Brexit, the Conservative party state that they seek a new “deep and special partnership with the EU”, with plans to control immigration and leave the single market.
The single market seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour – the ‘four freedoms’ – within the EU. Therefore, Britain leaving this would make it more difficult for students from the UK to work – and potentially even to study – in the EU and vice-versa.
Statistics from the National Insurance Recording System states the number of National Insurance Number applications in the year 2015-16 in the boroughs covered by ELL. These could be used as an indicator of just how many people move to the UK to work.
The Labour Party, however, are looking to “accept the referendum results”, but to retain the benefits of the single market.
Although, in comparison, this sounds like a better deal for students and young people, Wilson told us: “This gives the impression of Labour being on the fence about Brexit” which could potentially reduce people’s trust in the party.
However, he also added: “the Conservatives are far more concerned about the movement of capital than people – these priorities lie with the Labour party.”
The main talking point regarding job security during this election is zero-hour contracts – where an employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours for employees – and the role of unions.
The Labour Party are looking to abolish zero-hour contracts, stating they represent an “unstable” economy for low-paid workers, as they are not guaranteed an amount of hours per week. They are also looking to increase the right of all workers to have access trade unions, to be represented by.
However, Wilson told ELL: “Some organisations, such as music venues, do not have the capacity to facilitate set hours every week, so zero-hour contracts can work for them.
“People definitely need more knowledge about how zero-hour contracts work, and perhaps they should be regulated by unions rather than abolished in cases like this. This said, if more union support is not possible, the best move is to get rid of [zero-hour contracts] all together.”
The Conservatives, however, propose that people on zero-hour contracts should be able to “request guaranteed hours.” While this appears a solution to the problem of events workers, unions say this does not go far enough.
As there already exists a legal right to request flexible working, introduced in 2014, it is suggested this proposal simply mirrors what is already in place.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, told the Guardian: “This could mean close to zero action on zero-hours contracts. A ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers.”
If these issues matter to you, and you want to make a change we at East London Lines encourage you to vote on June 8 at the 2017 general election.