Acton Institute Powerblog

Unemployment and Despair in the UK

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The BBC News reports that 1 out of 10 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are struggling to cope with life. The main culprit: despair related to unemployment. The survey of 2,000 teens and young adults was conducted by The Prince’s Trust Youth Index.

The survey commentators seem surprised that education and training opportunities alone are not enough to provide hope for unemployed young people. Young people rightly want to know why they are training for jobs that do not exist. This has been particularly difficult for Northern Ireland where 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds cannot find employment. From the BBC:

Ian Jeffers, regional director of The Prince’s Trust in Northern Ireland, said: “A frightening number of unemployed young people in Northern Ireland feel unable to cope—and it is particularly tough for those who don’t have a support network in place.

“Life can become a demoralising downward spiral—from a challenging childhood into life as a jobless adult. But, with the right support, we can help get these lives on track across the region.”

Add to the unemployment data a dominant cultural secularism, the dehumanization and trappings of long-term government social welfare assistance, broken families, self-sabotaging social pathologies, and the like, one can easily understand why young people in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom seem hopeless and unable to cope with life.

The BBC story reminds me of a section on Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem excercens describing the moral and economic importance of work:

[Work] is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man’s dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it. If one wishes to define more clearly the ethical meaning of work, it is this truth that one must particularly keep in mind. Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being”.

Without this consideration it is impossible to understand the meaning of the virtue of industriousness, and more particularly it is impossible to understand why industriousness should be a virtue: for virtue, as a moral habit, is something whereby man becomes good as man.

Without a clearly defined moral compass, strong families that provide love and a sense of meaning, and economic opportunities that give young people an vocational imagination for the role one may play in making the world a better place, the inability to cope with life among young adults is only going to get worse. If Americans think that cultural secularization, increasing dependence on social welfare assistance, and undermining wealth creation in the business sector will “make America great” I would suggest that they look across the pond.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.

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