Uncertain futures: It's time for change!

Young people today face an uncertain future. Watching the news on any channel at night is proof enough of this. The current crisis taking precedence on news broadcasts around the globe is of course the financial crisis.

With stocks falling by the day and trillions — yes, trillions! — of dollars being wiped off the world stock markets, those economists who deny an impending world recession are becoming hard to find.

The situation has gotten so bad that governments who so often advocated putting our faith in the market are declaring that "the all-powerful market that always knows best is finished", as French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated recently.

But there is one aspect of the financial crisis that hasn't been mentioned by either major political party in Australia: what impacts will a recession have on young people? Many young people are already struggling financially and indeed the "poor student" stereotype has become accepted as the norm for young people undertaking study.

With the maximum fortnightly Youth Allowance payment that a single person can receive tipping a measly $355.40 it's no wonder that so many students are struggling financially.

With food prices rising rapidly in the last few years, just purchasing basic groceries is taking a large chunk out of the $177.70 students are trying to live on each week.

The lack of rental accommodation and rises in rental costs will also be further exacerbated by the current financial climate. For the many students who are not receiving the maximum Youth Allowance payment, the cost of food and rent is far above what they receive.

Young people in the workforce are also under increasing financial pressure with job options limited. Young workers often receive only a fraction of an adult's wage. Due to the casualisation of the workforce under ex-PM John Howard, many teenagers work for $10 an hour, or less, in mundane, uninspiring jobs.

Those young people who do secure a job that pays more reasonably are often employed through a "recruitment agency" and not directly by the company they actually work for. This allows employers to pay no leave entitlements.

In short, "if you don't work — we don't pay". In times of sickness this can mean no pay at all.

Many young people are finding the financial burden too much. As Resistance member Tim Dobson in GLW #749: "[Australia's Homeless Youth] report, released in early April, revealed that 36,000 people under 25, including 22,000 teenagers, are homeless on any given night. This figure is more than double that of 1989 when the last youth homelessness report was released. One in two of all youths seeking emergency shelter will be turned away — the result of under-funding.

"Almost 50% of homeless youth reported they were seeking accommodation due to a relationship breakdown with parents or step-parents, while 32% stated financial difficulties as the cause of their homelessness. The report also stated that physical and sexual abuse was a significant factor, with David Eldridge of the Salvation Army stating, 'It is not just happening in Indigenous communities'."

The number of homeless young people will surely increase as the unemployment rate inevitably also rises during an economic recession.

As well as an uncertain financial future, young people also face the prospect of runaway climate change in their lifetime. It has become apparent that climate change is occurring at a rate much faster than predicted by most scientists.

This was brought starkly to the world's attention with the recent prediction that by 2012 or 2013 the entire Arctic ice cap could entirely melt for the first time in 16 million years.

But rather than responding to the crisis by immediately switching to renewable energy and instituting other sustainability practices, capitalist governments and corporations are staking their claim on the untapped oil and gas reserves accessible for the first time due to the Arctic ice melt.

Oil companies have already begun drilling in the Arctic, furthering our slip towards runaway climate change.

So, to say young people face an uncertain future may be an understatement. Clearly an alternative to the capitalist system, which has ruined so many lives, killed unfathomable numbers of people and pushed humanity to the brink of destruction, is required.

Resistance, an Australia-wide socialist youth organisation, is dedicated to making this alternative a reality. A reality within which university degrees don't cost thousands of dollars, with students struggling just to feed themselves.

Resistance struggles for a reality in which humans live sustainably within the environment, ensuring that, rather than damaging the environment for future generations, we enrich it and leave a positive impact.

And, perhaps most importantly, a reality that gives ordinary people democratic control over the political process in order to create a society that works to satisfy human and environmental need rather than corporate greed.

As young people, it is up to us to shape our future. Head to http://www.resistance.org.au and check out "What Resistance Stands For". Contact your local branch (listed on page 2) to find out how you can be part of making this alternative a reality.

It's time for change! What better place than here? What better time than now?

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