The New York City Police Department has cleared Zuccotti Park. There’s not so much as a crisp packet left behind. And, by the sounds of the legal rumblings in London, the St. Paul’s Cathedral protestors won’t be long leaving either. But the focus on tent cities is really beside the point. What the US and other nations need to think about is where these people are going when they’ve been hoisted off city squares.
There’s no doubt that the majority of protestors at Zuccotti Park and at tent city, St. Paul’s, are from generation X. And by the look of youth unemployment stats it doesn’t sound like they’ll be heading back to the office.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says youth unemployment is higher today than records began in 1976. In Europe, figures are nothing short of alarming: in Spain nearly 43 per cent of under-25s are jobless. In Ireland, the figure is 31 per cent. In America, it is just over 18 per cent.
In tough economic times the young are the first for the axe. Armed with expensive educations and scant experience beyond the library, they find themselves plunged into economic limbo. Worse still, the OECD also shows that many have given up looking.
At the moment, the young, educated and jobless are hardly a formidable political movement. But while they look like idealists with utopian anti-capitalist rhetoric, the young shouldn’t be ignored.
As the Arab Spring demonstrated so deftly last year, mass youth unemployment is a force to be reckoned with. What at first were some restless young kids smoking narghile and moping on street corners, became a potent recipe for social change.
OECD countries should take note. Mass youth unemployment can be the beginning of political unrest and some serious, endemic social malaise.
They may not have despots to debunk, but Europe and the US have similar problems with their young to face this year.