Letters: Perspectives on rising unemployment

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The Independent Online

Does university really open the door to the future?

The crisis regarding youth unemployment ("Crisis deepens for UK's young", 18 August) is deeply worrying. Graduate unemployment is a particular issue.

For the first two decades after the end of the Second World War, the number of places in grammar and public schools represented roughly the demand for professional and white-collar jobs, and the proportion of blue-collar jobs was reflected in the number of children assigned to secondary modern schools.

The development of comprehensive education and university expansion were embarked on, in part, as a response to an increasing demand in the professional and white-collar sectors.

Does the present state of the economy demand that more than a third of new employees be graduates? Does university really offer the best training for jobs that have a graduate entry requirement?

Stephen Shaw, Newthorpe, Nottingham

Britain has a crying need for more apprentices

Your article "Crisis deepens for UK's young" suggests that record numbers of A-level students will miss out on a university place this year. I'd like to reaffirm the reality that university-based learning is not the sole option available to young people who are looking for the best start for their future careers.

There are a range of apprenticeships available to young people, which offer an excellent alternative to university, especially in the light of employers' growing reluctance to take on graduates with little or no work experience. Apprentices are the lifeblood of many industries. They offer an invaluable step into a career for young people and are good for business, while ensuring industry avoids skills shortages in the future by securing talent now.

Andy Walder, Director, National Construction College, Bircham Newton, Norfolk

Enterprise Zones could steal jobs, not create them

The problem with the Enterprise Zone type of initiative is, how do you measure success? Will the establishment of an Enterprise Zone actually create new jobs or simply move existing ones around? While the zones themselves may benefit from new jobs, they can just as easily destroy jobs and economies in neighbouring areas.

A new supermarket, encouraged into the area by the lower taxes and easier planning processes available in the zone, may open up on the edge of town and create X number of new jobs. But three years down the line its presence may lead to the closure of numerous town-centre shops, fuelling unemployment and lowering property values in the centre of town.

The question is, will Enterprise Zones just move business from one area of Britain to another, or will they actually create new jobs? The question also remains as to whether any new businesses established in an Enterprise Zone might have set up in the area anyway, regardless of whether the initiative was in place or not.

Overall, the success of Enterprise Zones is very difficult to measure. In the short term, they will offer a bonus, but the medium- and longer-term impact remains unclear.

Dr Warwick Knowles, Chief Economist, D&B Country Risk Services, London SW1

You otter know better

I am able to reveal the true cause of unemployment in the UK. It's not the recession. It's otters. The correlation is clear to see if you compare the map of "Unemployment rates % by New Enterprise zones" on Page 4 (18 August), against the "Percentage of positive sites by Environmental Agency region 2009/10" on page 15. It's a shame; I quite like otters.

Simon Kelly, Bracknell, Berkshire

It may be too late to do much for the present generation of unqualified, welfare-dependent young people, but were I to accept Matthew Norman's invitation to become a benign dictator (Comment, 17 August), I would concentrate on supplying decent male role models for boys at their most receptive age.

Given the number of first marriages that fail today, about one in six boys is likely to grow up without a father. They then attend primary school where nearly all teachers are women. It is not until these youngsters reach secondary school that they encounter at close quarters a man who might give them some clues as to what sort of person they should be growing up to become.

This is far too late. Before then, they will have picked up unsatisfactory role models from TV or the street.

This dire situation cannot be changed in a hurry, but real investment in parents' centres to support vulnerable, young single parents would help the next generation. A major campaign should also be launched to encourage young male graduates to teach in primary schools. If every school had an enthusiastic man on its books, boys would stand a better chance of becoming engaged in the educational process.

The extra money required to attract such people could be justified by advertising for teachers who will take football or other team sports after class. For many young male graduates with an interest in sports, the independent sector offers better opportunities than many maintained schools to both teach their subject and coach their games. These people need to be attracted to the maintained sector.

Christopher Martin, Kington Langley, Wiltshire

The behaviour of adolescent boys is moulded by the closest figure to them who is bigger, stronger and can run faster. The hope is that they are socialised before they realise that their fathers are not actually up to it.

The consequences of having a large proportion of unsocialised youths in a group are predictable, and have recently been demonstrated.

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

As we froth over the fecklessness of a generation of feral youth, let us not forget the circumstances that spawned them, a culture of unchecked consumerism in which greed was good and there was no such thing as society. The economic consequences of this short-sighted selfishness have been apparent at least since the banking crisis, but the more serious social consequences are now upon us.

Martin Luther King once described a riot as "the language of the unheard", and we would be wise to pay attention: the people we are rushing to lock away today are the abandoned love-children of Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Gekko, and their parents should also be held accountable for their actions.

Simon Prentis, London NW3

No matter the misery and terror caused, no matter the cost of the repairs and no matter that the sentences were passed by legally appointed judges and magistrates, there are always some, not content with decades of lenient sentences which in many cases have been laughable, who are willing to defend these enemies of the communities and encourage them to continue to wreak mayhem.

Pete Day, Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Isn't it time for Cameron and co to call off the dogs and restore the separation of powers? What is needed post-riots is balance and restorative justice, not populist retribution.

The appeal courts are soon going to be – quite rightly – overturning riot-related sentences and the justice system is going to be diminished in the eyes of the world. Would there have been such a knee-jerk reaction if the name of the god Mammon hadn't been violated by the looters? I doubt it.

We may be a long way away on the sanction spectrum from public executions, but the sentiments that have driven this witch-hunt have not been dissimilar.

Phil Howard, Preston, Lancashire

Daren Brooker's proposed solution (letters, 17 August) doesn't prevent the problem, it inflames it. Children learn far more from emulating what we do than from listening to what we say. If we smack we're teaching that smacking is what you do to make your point. There is ample research to show that most violent offenders suffered violence from their parents as children. If you want to teach children self-control, demonstrate it.

Michael Gilbert, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

The morality of cluster bombs

Your article and letters (18 August) exposing British banks' financing of companies engaged in the pernicious manufacture of cluster bombs will dismay many people of conscience, though probably not most of those actively engaged in the financial investment services.

The problem is that western capitalism has become largely morally bankrupt as organisation of production has become concentrated in large global corporations driven by profit at all costs. Those in government and the financial investment services will argue that capital should flow to those areas producing the highest returns. The willingness to turn a blind eye to cluster-bomb manufacture, the exploitation of child labour, or even supermarkets colluding to fix the price of dairy produce, are examples where the ethical component of business is conveniently overridden.

The moral dimension to individual human actions has come prominently into the headlines owing to the riots. I believe that it should also become an item high on the business agenda.

Graham V Cornwell, Stanmore, Middlesex

At a time when rioters in England are being condemned and two people have been sentenced to four years for inciting riots, we read that Britain's leading banks are funding cluster-bomb manufacturers . Such double standards are sickening, yet the answer is that the manufacture of cluster bombs is profitable to large corporations and the rioting is a threat to those profits. And there is the moral touchstone in its hideous glory.

Louis Shawcross, Hillsborough, Co Down

Victims of market panic

Quite rightly, bankers have been vilified for their major role in the financial woes of the world, but what about those other pariahs of the world economy, the marker-makers in stocks, shares and commodities?

Last week saw the financial markets at their very worst, and led me to believe that volatility in markets is nothing to do with the financial health of countries or businesses but is all about relatively few people making lots of money at the expensive of the vast majority.

How else can one rationalise what has happened on, say the London Stock Exchange? Each day has seen massive ups and downs in the index – losses on two days of more than 3 per cent balanced out by gains on the other three days ranging from just under 2 per cent to just more than 3 per cent, the outcome pretty much where we started the week, a gain of just more than 1 per cent.

Just what has all of this achieved? Mass panic all over the world, much sage commentary by the "experts", and apart from that, I guess, little.

It is a basic rule of stock-markets that for every loser there is a gainer. So can someone please tell me just who has lost (I suspect the small investor who panicked) and just who has gained (I suspect already very wealthy dealers who have just added enormously to their riches)?

France and Germany are trying to stop this madness by banning short-selling. We need to take firm steps to stop this just becoming a game where ordinary people suffer still further.

David Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria

UN ill-equipped to keep the peace

If we need to identify the foot-draggers denying UN peacekeepers access to appropriate intelligence-gathering techniques ("What now for the Blue Beret?" 9 August), then look no further than the five permanent members of the Security Council, the P5.

The chief of UN peacekeeping set out clearly to us in London in May how the UK could assist him and the 100,000 peacekeepers he commands. He departed, politely listened to but unrewarded, with the reminder that the UK pays its dues and that's that.

At present, the UK provides about 275 soldiers in Cyprus, and UK military observers, our eyes and ears, can be counted on one hand. Government support for public debate on the issue has been halted. So soldiers from a hundred countries, sent to keep the peace, continue to die in foreign fields, many for reasons outlined in your article.

We have advocated the introduction of surveillance UAVs and tethered balloons, wider use of local radio and expanded open society-based information-sharing techniques as repeatedly requested by the UN's senior commanders. Schedules for introducing, funding, training and updating such assets can be readily calculated but the continuing lack of interest shown by today's leaders of P5 states has stymied such initiatives.

This shows them up as poor successors to those who founded the UN more than 60 years ago and who would never have contemplated denying the UN access to equipment needed in the cause of peace.

David Wardrop, Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch

Haven in a chaotic land

Your photographic feature in The Independent Magazine (6 August) on displaced persons in Bosasso, Somalia, was both poignant and moving. But for the sake of accuracy, it should have been pointed out that Bosasso is a major urban centre in Puntland, which declares itself as an autonomous (though not independent) state within Somalia.

It is relatively free from Al Shabaab and has a stable judiciary and its own standing army. It is seen as an entity free from many of the disruptive elements to which South Central Somalia is subjected. Many displaced persons converge on Bosasso both for its camps and also as a departure point for Yemen. It also shelters the pirate community within its territory. Border controls attempt to stem the flow of migrants, and international travellers have "visas" stamped on their passports.

Conditions of security are much better than Southern Somalia. The photos accurately depict local conditions but it is heaven in comparison to Mogadishu.

Dr Joseph Mullen, University of Manchester

Tattie howking down the years

When I was a girl in 1940 and living in Aberdeenshire, my school released two classes of boys and girls to lift the potato harvest that October. The potatoes were gathered as described by Angela Kingston (letter, 8 August). I earned a shilling an hour, £2 for a five-day week. I made enough to buy winter clothes for myself, my sister and four brothers.

Doreen Amos, Folkestone, Kent

"Tattie howking" carried on much later than the Forties and Fifties. As a teenager in the early Eighties, I was among gangs of fellow schoolchildren picked up from our home town of Arbroath and taken by horsebox or trailer to the tattie fields nearby. We were paid £8 a day for a full "bit" (section of a field), or £4 for a half-bit. One year I used my savings to buy my first Sony Walkman.

The two-week October break is still referred to in Angus as the "tattie holidays", by my generation at least.

Neil Davidson, Edinburgh

Better than a helmet

In the recent correspondence about cyclists' safety and helmets, there has been no mention of wearing high-visibility clothing. My own view is that I would prefer to be seen and not hit. There is also the problem of what to do with a cycle helmet after dismounting, when out and about, whereas a high-vis vest can easily be put in a bag.

Jenny Macmillan, Cambridge

How to sort out the euro crisis

The answer to the European crisis is obvious. We nationalise the eurozone, then when things settle we sell the good half back to the EU at a profit and keep hold of the "toxic" half until everyone forgets about it.

Gary Clark, London EC4

'Safe' drivers are dangerous

Anne Smith (letter, 17 August), hits the nail on the head when she suggests that the drivers of cars festooned with safety features could have less regard for other road users. Ask any motorcyclist about Volvo drivers.

Dominic Robinson, Hawkhurst, Kent