As the date [of the EU referendum] rapidly approaches, a growing number of memes and status ‘rants’ from Leave campaigners are flooding social media, seeking to apportion blame on the European Union for a myriad of social, economic and political problems. Such memes lament the collapse of British industry, the rise of precarious work, the over-inflation of the housing market and the fragility of the NHS as direct results of ‘EU rules’ and our membership of the Union itself.
Voters are being distracted from a far more important issue: neoliberalism.
Neoliberal policy has transformed the labour market via the residualisation of collective organisation, the globalisation of labour and outsourcing of work to emerging economies, ‘light-touch’ labour management, a rise in precarious forms of work and sustained higher levels of unemployment.
It has transformed education, through increased focus on performance measurement, league tables, routine testing, and the creation of a market in the expanded higher education sector which sees students now repositioned as ‘consumers’ and beginning their careers saddled with debts of up to £44,000.
It has contributed to the current crisis in affordable housing. The ‘right to buy’ depleted the stock of social housing, slashing budgets and investment in new homes. The liberalisation of mortgage lending in favour of the private rental sector has enabled the trading of homes as financial assets, pushing up prices beyond the affordability of most first time buyers.
All of these changes have impacted most significantly upon one particular group: young people.
Studies have shown that the ‘IPOD generation’ (Insecure, Pressurised, Over-taxed and Debt-ridden) have grown up at a time of rapid change and, whilst they have benefitted from developments in information technology and cheaper commodities, the certainties and safety-nets that their parents’ generation enjoyed are gradually being eroded.
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