Youth Unemployment

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th November 2021.

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Photo of Sakina Sheikh Sakina Sheikh Labour

The effects of job losses from the pandemic in London have hit young people the hardest. What can City Hall do to help improve employment levels for young people?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair, for this important question. With furlough now ended and the latest figures showing youth unemployment still above pre-pandemic levels, it is crucial that we do all that we can to support young people as part of London’s wider recovery.

Through my Academies Programme, we are investing to help the most impacted Londoners into good jobs in sectors that are key to London’s recovery. My £32 million Good Work Fund, £11.5 million Careers Hubs and No Wrong Door Programme will provide a high-quality offer of skills, work experience, careers advice and mentoring to support young Londoners and people most in need into good work. Through the Adult Education Budget (AEB), we are supporting Londoners aged 19-plus to develop a range of skills and access support to find work. In 2019 and 2020 around 24,500 young people aged 19 to 24 enrolled in 46,000 courses.

As part of the New Deal for Young People, we are also investing in a programme to increase high-quality and inclusive mentoring opportunities in London’s growth sectors, so that more young Londoners can benefit from mentorship with industry professionals. We are working closely with London’s anchor institutions on how they can support the New Deal for Young People through funding, technical assistance, coordination and communications, as well as recruitment of mentors. Through the London Recovery Board, we are working with partners to ensure that young Londoners are aware of the opportunities available to them and can make the most of them to find good work and to flourish.

Photo of Sakina Sheikh Sakina Sheikh Labour

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor, and good afternoon to you now. Perhaps it is me attempting to cling onto my youth, but I would say that the precarity of rent, the escalating cost of living and the precarity of the employment landscape that we were discussing means that, even beyond the age of 24, the precarity of youth is still felt to people even in their 30s. For me, what anchored this particular question was, in the pandemic, 80% of job losses were by those under the age of 35. That is devastating, really.

For me, it is really fantastic to hear you outline what you are doing to support young people in London to get back into employment. One of the things I wanted to address in that process is, even once we have young people in employment, the nature of the gig economy and the precarity of the work that comes from zero-hour contracts means that many young people are in exploitative employment practices or experiencing it. What is it that you can do to protect our young people who are experiencing exploitative employment practices?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Look, Chair, if the Member thinks she is trying hard to hold onto her youth, I will have a conversation with her offline about my attempts to try to hold onto my youth.

It is a really important issue you raise. When I began my career I reflect, because I was in employment in a career that had progression, there was training, there was a clear career path and there was security. The generation aged 18 onwards does not have the same career path in most of the jobs out there. The new jobs, by the way, in the gig economy do not have that career path, the training and the security. You just think about - and I know you know many young people - the difficulty of getting a mortgage or providing the security to a landlord to get a property. It is really important we think about this.

I know a lot of people in this Assembly - thankfully not the majority - are anti-trade unions but look at the great work the GMB did in relation to getting a recognition agreement with Uber for some of the drivers in these uncertain economies. I commend Uber, by the way, for recognising the GMB and the great work the GMB did. That is one of the reasons why collectively organising can lead to improvements in the workplace.

One of the things we have to do is recognise that the gig economy is here. How do we make sure it is fit-for-purpose going forward? That means regulation keeping abreast of developments but also things like paying off taxation and so forth. We have to understand the challenges young people face, and also try to support them. That is what we are seeking to do in City Hall.

Photo of Sakina Sheikh Sakina Sheikh Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. I accept we have to recognise the gig economy is here, but I do struggle to reconcile my acceptance for it staying. It should be on its way out because not only does it, like we say, create precarity of employment once it has been brought, but there are - and I will move on to this next part with my follow-ups - the current working conditions of some young people once they get work. Talking about union recognition in workplaces is incredibly important. They are absolutely the backbone of those who negotiate our working conditions.

For me, one campaign that was brought to light for me when I was at my Unite policy conference is around the hospitality sector. Nine out of ten people in the hospitality sector, regardless of gender, have experienced sexual harassment. I found that astonishing. For me, nine out of ten is essentially saying that everyone in the hospitality sector has experienced sexual harassment. I wonder what we are doing to say boldly that misogyny and sexual harassment in any industry, but particularly in the hospitality sector is unacceptable, just to add a small layer on why this is particularly insidious, especially given the precarity of trying to get work. A lot of what I have been told by hospitality workers is there is a bigger dependence on tips and so it creates quite a high threshold of sensitivity to sexual harassment because it tops up their wages.

There is a melting pot right now of exploitative working practices. Particularly on the point of sexual harassment, can you let me know what you are doing from City Hall to protect our young workers, not just in hospitality, but beyond?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you for raising this really important issue that affects a lot of Londoners and a lot of people across the country. Your use of the word ‘desensitising’ is really important. A lot of this sexual harassment is a criminal offence but, if people have less trust and confidence in the police, do not be surprised if it is under-reported.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

We have to make sure there is more trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. We have to make sure certain things are criminal offences. Misogyny should be a hate crime. The harassment of people in public spaces should be a criminal offence.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

We have to make sure we address some of these big changes. Also, we have to make that workplace safe. One of the things we have been working on - and you asked what we are doing specifically - is Amy Lamé [Night Czar] has done a great job in relation to getting more and more organisations signed up to the Women’s Night Safety Charter, which sets out expectations on businesses. The great news is more than 600 businesses, nightclubs, restaurants, bars and others in hospitality have signed up to the Women’s Night Safety Charter which gives a responsibility to staff members but also members of the public as well. That is really important. Similarly, there is the Ask For Angela scheme, and also the toolkit we have set up after listening to experts in violence against women and girls.

There are two other things we have to do. We have to make sure - in inverted commas - ‘whistleblowing’ is far easier and grievance procedures in the workplace, including disciplinary procedures. Look, an MP this week said she was the victim of a criminal assault, by the way, a criminal offence, and did not have the confidence - and there are many people who were nodding their heads because they have probably experienced something similar - to report this. It is not just people in hospitality. It is others in jobs who do not have the confidence to come forward. There are often good reasons like previous experiences. That cannot be right.

We have to at the same time be tackling the behaviour of men because at the core of this is how my sex is behaving. Yes, of course we are going to make sure of better support for women, better support for girls and better support for those working in hospitality. What about the guys doing this stuff. Take action against them. Throw the book at them. Arrest them. Charge them. Tackle their behaviour. There has to be more of that. That includes people like me being an ally and talking about it and calling it out and doing much more from City Hall, but there is a big challenge.

The final thing is one of the reasons why trade unions are a wonderful thing. If you work in hospitality, join a trade union because a trade union will be your ally, your advocate and your friend here.

Photo of Sakina Sheikh Sakina Sheikh Labour

Hear, hear. Thank you very much, Mr Mayor. Thank you, Chair.