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We'll be worst affected by spending cuts say young people

'We'll be worst affected by spending cuts' say young people

Evidence of a 'Big Society attitude' with young people opting to protect elderly from brunt of cuts

Just 7 per cent of 16-24 year olds feel that Government makes decisions with their age group (11-20 years old) in mind according to a new report published by the independent think tank Demos.  They feel their age group will bear the brunt of the spending cuts, with 32 per cent of 18-21 year olds thinking that 16-24 year olds would be the age group worst affected by the spending review and 28 per cent thinking those slightly older aged 25-34 would have to feel the biggest impact.

Despite this, young people think OAPs should be protected from Government spending cuts and favour cuts to education rather than health (43 per cent compared to 28 per cent), showing long-term thinking and prioritising the needs of older people before their own.

Polling and focus groups held by Demos and The Co-operative expose a complex understanding of the financial challenges facing Britain but also a mistrust of politicians and an optimistic and altruistic attitude on the part of the nation’s young people.


Daniel Leighton, author of Back to the Future said:
“Young people know they’re going be hit hardest but they still want to make sure that older people are protected from the brunt of cuts. Young people approach the spending cuts with a high degree of scepticism. They are not convinced by the Coalition’s argument that there is ‘no alternative’ to the pace and depth of cuts.

“Young people today have almost everything against them – they’re entering a tough job market with record levels of student debt, they’re unable to get onto the housing ladder and they’re footing the bill for older generations.

“Political leaders need to engage them as citizens in an open debate about the fairness and positive benefits of their programme. They will find if they do young people are more than capable of making touch trade offs in the wider public interest.

“The Big Society agenda – with its emphasis on collective responses to social challenges – does hold hope for the challenges young people face.  And they’re certainly showing evidence of having a Big Society attitude."


Further findings include:



Most young people (42 per cent) thought their job prospects good or great and 43 per cent think they will be better off than their parents.


Young people place responsibility for the financial crisis and deficit on the banking sector and on government in equal measure. They also felt that public sector workers and professionals were better placed than politicians to make decisions about spending cuts.

Tax vs cuts

Young people overwhelmingly feel cuts to public spending are being rushed through too quickly with 80 per cent supporting slowing cuts. 39 per cent supported an equal split between tax rises and spending cuts, compared to 28 per cent who favour only cuts and 19 per cent who favour only tax increases. Young people want to see a tax avoidance crack down and a levy in bank profits more than the introduction of a top rate of tax for those earning more than £100k or a vacant property tax.


Young people endorsed the Government’s move away from universalism with 81 per cent feeling that benefits should be targeted at those most in need.


Young people are in line with the general population in showing little sympathy for those on unemployment benefits.  The majority of participants (77 per cent) selected to cut unemployment benefits rather than spending on pensions.


Young people were spit over whether to increase fees (59 per cent) or cap numbers (41 per cent). Participants highlighted a concern about EMA being cut.

Peter Marks, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, said:

“For over a century, The Co-operative, which has more than six million members, has operated a democratic structure that is fully open to people aged 16 and above.
“That’s why we are calling for the voting age to be lowered to sixteen, which we believe would boost democratic and parliamentary renewal in the UK and energise young people to better engage in society. It’s vital that we take note of what this generation is saying and recognise its legitimacy.”


Notes to Editors

Demos carried out a Young People’s Convention on the Deficit with 100 people aged 16-18 on Saturday 16th October 2010, the weekend before the Spending Review was published.  Demos also commissioned YouGov to poll 1,019 18-21 year olds between 6th and 18th October 2010.

Only 24 per cent of 16-24 year olds are likely to have engaged in ‘civic participation’ as defined by voting, writing to an MP or attending a demonstration or protest.

Demos is a think-tank focused on power and politics. Our unique approach challenges the traditional, 'ivory tower' model of policymaking by giving a voice to people and communities. We work together with the groups and individuals who are the focus of our research, including them in citizens’ juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and ethnographic research. Through our high quality and socially responsible research, Demos has established itself as the leading independent think tank in British politics. Our work is driven by the goal of a society populated by free, capable, secure and powerful citizens.

The report Back to the Future by Daniel Leighton is published today at

The research was supported by The Co-operative.

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