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Julius Falk

Youth Corner ...

Fewer Jobs For Youth

(10 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 10, 10 March 1947, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Without trades, lacking experience and seniority, American youth has always been among the first to feel the whip of firings, layoffs and wage cuts. The hungry years which followed the 1929 crash saw as many as five, million jobless youth.

What has been true of the past will unquestionably be the case in the next, inevitable and more permanent collapse of American capitalism.

During the war, “good” jobs were relatively plentiful for young people. With production reaching unprecedented levels and with eleven million men in the service, the number of “well paying” jobs open was generally on a par with the number of those seeking them; competition among workers was thereby sharply cut and young people, despite their lack of skill and experience, managed to get jobs in industries with salaries considerably higher than pay rates ever before received by the 18–22 age category.

That this has only been a temporary phenomenon, growing out of a forced war economy, is indicated not only by socialist theory and past events, but in present-day fact. It is becoming increasingly difficult for American youth to find a decent place for itself, even a temporary one, in American economy.

Competition among workers for these “good” industrial jobs is daily intensifying. As this competition increases, young people are pushed aside. They lack background and skill and must therefore turn to other fields which offer smaller pay, irregular hours, poorer working conditions and not even an illusory promise of a future. Where we had young lathe hands, sheet metal workers, shipyard workers, etc., it is now and will increasingly become the pattern for young people to accept, and eventually compete for, such menial, underpaid jobs as bus-boys, errand clerks and the like.

In a widely publicized report by the Kennedy Employment Service (for fullest coverage of this survey, see New York Herald Tribune of February 14), it was pointed out that the agency finds it more and more difficult to place young applicants in industrial positions and with the same scale of pay as it did during the war years.

Industrial firms do not feel the same labor shortage and are unwilling to hire young, inexperienced workers when they can once again fill in whatever vacancies exist with older, skilled workers. As Emilie Stevens, placement secretary of employment service, observed: “Adolescents with no previous work experience are the hardest hit of those for whom we are seeking jobs.”

Further on the report notes that “While employment opportunities seem plentiful for stenographers, typists and domestic workers, jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled men who during the war worked in metal industries are hard to find.” She continues: “Employers since the war have become more rigid in their hiring policies with respect to skills, stability, physical strength, youth and flexibility.”

That the economic need exists for 18 and 19 year olds to seek employment in the “richest country in the world” is in itself a condemnation of the capitalist system, irrespective of how this problem is met. Young people should be seeking education, not jobs. This is the real problem for youth and one that can be adequately met only in a free, socialist America.

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