Shaun Bailey: An entire generation left out of the economy

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The employment figures released yesterday are not a huge surprise. We've had a massive bailout of the banks and huge amounts of money injected into the economy. But what is lost in all this are the personal tragedies of recession. The development of a whole generation is being stunted. They will enter work much later, if at all, and the longer they spend out of work the less they are developing personally.

There's a temptation to look at these things through a racial lens, but class is the more important issue. We have two classes in this country: those who work, and those who don't. There is an unprecedented number of people more able and more willing to rely on the welfare state to provide for them, rather than provide for themselves. In previous recessions there wasn't this degree of dependence on the state.

The other main reason this whole generation is being stunted is because our comprehensive schools are designed for a skills-based economy, but ours is a knowledge-based economy.

However there is an inescapable discrepancy between jobless rates for white and black boys – and it needs to be addressed. The gulf between them is partly the result of historic factors; partly the result of a racial penalty which is still in place (you're still more likely to get a job if you're white); and mainly because of the black community not engaging as it could have done with the education system. The other ill effects follow on from those, and have never been confronted properly.

Family matters too, of course. I got what I would call my resilience from my family. But I got my sense of discipline and self-sacrifice from gymnastics, which I trained for over and over again. That's what this generation needs: the discipline to make sacrifices and also to govern themselves rather than expecting the state to do it.

Shaun Bailey is the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush, and co-founder of the charity My Generation, which tackles young people's social problems

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