From money worries to job insecurity, housing issues to health concerns, new research published by Young Women’s Trust (YWT) paints an unhappy picture of the challenges faced by many young people.
At a time of life more traditionally characterised by youthful confidence and optimism, we found that many young people were worried about the future, worn down and struggling to make ends meet – with young women hit hardest.
Almost half of the 4,000 18-30 year olds surveyed for YWT said they may have to put off having children until they can afford to have them. More than four in ten still live at home, and almost one in four had to move back in with their parents as they couldn’t afford to live away from them.
This is sadly not surprising given the difficulties in earning enough money that many young people face. 30% of young people had been offered a zero hours contract, 22% had been paid less than the minimum wage and 28% said they didn’t have enough paid hours.
It is young women who are the most likely to have these concerns. In large part as a result of this, it’s also young women who are being particularly affected by financial pressures. 39% of young women said it was a real struggle to make their cash last until the end of the month (compared with 27% of young men). Being financially solvent seems a pipe dream for millennials, with young people more likely to say that humans will have landed on Mars by the time they are 40 than that they will be debt-free.
However, young people don’t feel there is much they can do to improve their work and pay. Just 16% of young women and 27% of young men said they would be confident asking for a pay rise. And more than half (56%) would consider moving abroad for work if they couldn’t find a job in the UK.
Discrimination also continues to be a big problem, with three in ten young women having experienced sex discrimination when working or looking for work. Interestingly, less than one in three young people (31%) said that it was likely they would turn to a trade union for advice about their rights if they were being treated unfairly at work. In contrast, 80% would turn to a friend, 77% to a partner and 74% to the Internet.
These challenges appear to be feeding into anxiety and worry about the future. One in three young people (38% of young women, 29% of young men) said they were worried about their mental health. Young women are also more likely to report feeling worried about the future (55% of young women, 47% of young men) or worn down (46% young women, 38% young men). Confidence is also a major issue, with 54% of young women and 39% of young men saying they lack self-confidence.
While life for many young people appears hard, it is considerably tougher for young women, especially those from lower socio-economic groups.
In her first speech as Prime Minister back in July, Theresa May rightly emphasised the need to make Britain work not just for the privileged few but for all of us – highlighting for example the gender pay gap and housing challenges facing young people. If this ambition is to be made a reality, it’s clear from our new research that the needs of young people, especially young women, must be at the heart of future policymaking across Government and backed up by a comprehensive programme of reform.
That’s why we have suggested that a Minister is established within central government, with responsibility for youth policy, including youth employment.
Much more must be done to give young people fairer financial futures – including through a commitment from Government to moving towards extending the National Living Wage to under 25s. And we also know that for young people who haven’t been able to find work, too often the support falls short – which is why we want to see greater use of holistic approaches like our Work It Out service, which supports young women with confidence, wellbeing and employability.
It’s not in any of our interests to write off an entire generation. We simply cannot afford to be complacent about the challenges many young people are facing.
Joe Levenson, Director of Communications and Campaigns, Young Women’s Trust