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Hey George Osborne, under-25s are people too

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The chancellor shows shocking callousness to young people in work, says Robyn Vinter

It was the announcement that prompted this reaction from Iain Duncan Smith, but saw many under 25s plunge their heads into their hands.

 

Osborne said he would set a new Living Wage at £7.20 and apply it to all workers.

All workers, that is, except those under 25.

There’s much debate around what a Living Wage in the UK is, with the Living Wage Foundation saying what Osborne announced “is effectively a higher National Minimum Wage and not a Living Wage”, but putting the complex debate aside, the chancellor has shown shocking callousness in excluding young people from the Living Wage.

On a practical level, does Osborne really think 24 year-olds use less heating and water, eat less food and pay less rent?

I can remember my 25th birthday and, among the usual feeling of having wasted a quarter of a century, there was categorically no rise in living costs. And my job stayed the same too – I wasn’t suddenly doing more work than the day before when I was 24.

I’m a strong believer that if you’re prepared to work for something, you should be adequately rewarded. However, Osborne seems to think people doing the same job should be paid not on the job they do, but by their age – a very odd metric which creates an age-based underclass. For a government that puts its trust in capitalism and the free hand of the markets, they’re doing a lot to interfere.

For a government trying to persuade young people that a life on the minimum wage is better than a life on the dole, there really is no worse way to do that. What the government is saying is “you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t”.

By the age of 25, people should no longer have to depend on their parents for somewhere to live, or for help with bills, but this Budget is making that impossible for many people who go to work every day working minimum wage jobs that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we wouldn’t like to do.

Similarly, why should parents with grown-up working children be made to give them handouts (and that’s assuming they’re able to afford to give handouts, which many aren’t).

But the underlying and extremely troubling issue is that this is just one of many policies making up the government’s assault on young people. Removing housing benefit for under 21s who work, and taking away grants for poor kids who want to go to university, are despicable policies, almost as though they were designed to punish people for being young.

The government is writing off a generation and causing long-term problems that may take a lifetime to fix.

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