Landon Thomas's Brilliant Solution to British Youth Unemployment: More Job-Training Schemes

In “For London Youth, Down and Out Is Way of Life,” New York Times reporter Landon Thomas Jr. came up with a sparkling new solution to the looters and rioters who stole sneakers and cell phones in last summer's nationwide rampage: Taxpayer-funded job training!

Thomas last got Times Watch’s attention last December with his bizarre hypothetical of what might happen if Europe abandoned it’s euro currency scheme.

He wrote on Thursday’s front page:

For almost two years, Nicki Edwards has been looking for work -- any type of work.

She is 19 years old, well-spoken and self-possessed. But like many young people in Britain, she could not afford to remain at her university, making it impossible to find a job. London’s youth riots last summer have closed even more doors to people like her.

Thomas blames the U.K. government for not sufficiently subsidizing job-training schemes, without questioning whether they actually worked. Thomas also assumed that the riots in England last year were driven by "lack of opportunity," though the riots themselves were conducted via expensive smartphones and targeted luxury goods like sneakers and tech.

Perhaps the most debilitating consequence of the euro zone’s economic downturn and its debt-driven austerity crusade has been the soaring rate of youth unemployment. Spain’s jobless rate for people ages 16 to 24 is approaching 50 percent. Greece’s is 48 percent, and Portugal’s and Italy’s, 30 percent. Here in Britain, the rate is 22.3 percent, the highest since such data began being collected in 1992. (The comparable rate for Americans is 18 percent.)

The lack of opportunity is feeding a mounting alienation and anger among young people across Europe -- animus that threatens to poison the aspirations of a generation and has already served as a wellspring for a number of violent protests in European cities from Athens to London. And new economic data on Wednesday, showing much of Europe in the doldrums or recession, does little to bolster hopes for a better jobs picture anytime soon.

Experts say that the majority of those who took to the streets in London last summer were young people who were unemployed, out of school and not participating in a job training program.

They were also, you know, criminals, but Thomas didn’t judge.

While youth unemployment has long been a chronic issue here, experts say the British government’s debt-reduction commitment to rein in social spending appears to be making the problem worse. Insufficient job training and apprenticeship programs, they argue, contribute to the large pool of permanently unemployed young people in Britain.


Neither Mr. Lawson nor Ms. Edwards participated in last summer’s riots. They both say, however, that they understand the frustrations that pushed many of their peers to break the law.

One 19-year-old who admits he looted during the July disturbances says he has now joined a gang and taken to petty burglaries to make ends meet.

“I just don’t care anymore,” he said, declining to identify himself. “I am sick of living like rubbish.”

Not content to outline the problem of youth unemployment as a newsworthy story, Thomas again lobbied for a liberal solution:

While the recession is clearly making it harder for the young in Britain and across Europe to find work, economists argue that without a strategic partnership between the government and the private sector that trains those who want to be trained, youth unemployment in many countries will remain high even after the economy recovers.