It seems to me that the big change of the last few years which has transformed the immediate lives and expectations of the present generation of young people is the collapse of youth employment, as we knew it in the 1950s and 1960s, within the space of seven short years. This is my starting point. It is a momentous change which will affect all our lives.
I do not need to labour the statistics to establish the nature of the change. Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s youth employment remained extremely buoyant. In the circumstances of what was then regarded as full employment, the unemployment rate among teenagers was below that for the rest of the community. In the early 1970s there were some ominous signs: with the first indications that somewhat higher levels of unemployment were becoming normal, the relationship changed and teenage unemployment rates began to surge ahead of the adult rate.
In the mid-1970s, as everybody knows, unemployment took off, and when it did, youth unemployment rose faster and higher than the rest.
Between 1975 and 1983 a nearly five-fold increase took the quoted level of unemployment from 630,000 to about 3,000,000. As for unemployment among school-leavers - almost negligible until the late 1970s - as many as two thirds of this year's leavers would be heading straight for unemployment if it were not for special measures introduced to provide the alternative forms of non-school and non-employment which now go by the name of the Youth Training Scheme.
Till recently - perhaps still - there has been a tendency to talk about unemployment as if it were a temporary phenomenon, a symptom of the recession which would clear up when world wide recovery brings about a revival in trade. But it is increasingly obvious that nothing is going to bring back the mass employment once provided by the old heavy industries like coal and steel and shipbuilding; that, in fact, employment in manufacturing is much more likely to go on shrinking than to grow. Behind all the political argument about government intervention or no government intervention, lie the basic changes in the world economy which have taken Britain from being a large net exporter of manufactured goods to being a net importer; from being a supplier of third world countries with manufactured goods to being a profitable market for their exports of machinery and equipment.....
The point I am making is that what happened to employment was not some well-defined and isolated disaster, but part of a wider set of social changes which included a broad challenge to the values on which many of the social institutions of the post-war world - including the post 1945 education system - had been built up. It was, in my view, absolutely no coincidence that the reaction sparked off by Britain's social, economic and technical incompetence in the 1970s should focus on education as one of its main points of reference. Not only was education a ready-made scapegoat, but it was also obvious that the next generation of school-leavers would be among those who had most to lose in the hostile world around the corner.
Looking forward, it is plain that even if there is an economic recovery the translation of such a recovery into jobs is far from certain. Taking an optimistic view, it can be accepted that many new jobs will come into being in the new technology-based industries and in existing and as yet unforeseen forms of service industry. But that such new jobs will come in time or in the right place to replace the jobs which are now disappearing is a much less plausible proposition, and there seems no reason to doubt that, even on the most favourable scenario, there is a difficult and, for many people, painful transition to make, while old industries contract still further and there is a widespread mismatch between the employment needs of those who are losing their jobs and the labour requirements of those who are creating new ones.
Nor is it obvious that there is some settled, full employment world waiting to be ushered in, if only we can grit our teeth and endure the next few years. What seems much more likely is a period of continuing uncertainty, in which all the components of the employment equation are so changing at the same time in ways which cannot be foreseen in any detail.
buoyant ['bo~ont]: leLhaft, gesund
five-fold: multiplied by five
if it were not for: if there were no
net. (value) after deducting costs, losses, etc.
service industry: Dienstleistungsindustrie
employment needs: Arbeitsplatzbedarf
labour requirement. Bedarf an (qualifizierten) Arbeitskräften
Understanding the contents
1. Maclure analyses the elements of youth unemployment. What are
a) its past causes, and
b) its present characteristics?
2. What will create the "mismatch between ... employment needs" and "labour requirements" ?
3. What will this mean for a) school-leavers, and b) those in employment?
Analysing the text
4. This text is an excerpt from the manuscript of a speech Maclure held before British scientists in 1983. In it he attempts to lay open, or expose, the nature of the youth unemployment situation. As this is the predominant element here, we can speak of an expository text and call the text type* exposition. The writer of such a text explains difficult subject matter in detail. This requires particular care and precision as far as the use of language is concerned.
a) Maclure limits the general nature of some of his statements by adding short qualifications set apart by commas or dashes.
Collect four examples.
b) In addition, he clarifies certnin nouns or pronouns by adding defining relative clauses or participle constructions.
Collect eight examples of defining relative clauses and three examples of participle constructions from the text.
5. Analysis of difficult subject matter calls for a relatively high level of abstraction. This is reflected here in the many words of non-Germanic origin. Study the fourth paragraph and find at least eight examples.
6. Even in an expository text of this kind, a writer may use words in ways that go beyond their usual or literal meaning. Maclure, for example, refers to the "collapse of youth employment". The writer transfers a word used in medicine to the field of economics. He employs "collapse" in a figurative sense. Find five more words used figuratively in the text. Explain their literal and figurative meanings.
* see glossary