Communists welcome the votes and the voice of young people in this election. These Senedd elections will be the first in which 16- and 17-year-olds (and legally resident foreign nationals) are allowed to vote in Wales, and some 65,000 citizens under 18 are expected to benefit.
Votes at 16 has been the policy of the Communist Party since the early 1990s.
Young workers and students face growing challenges and they deserve the right to participate in elections more fully. They have already been hit hard by Covid-19. We are living through an epidemic in mental health problems among young people.
The unemployment rate for 18-24 year-olds has more than doubled since March 2020 to 14% — one in seven young people. Almost half of young women workers in Wales, and more than a quarter of young men, are in the ‘shut down’ sectors. Scores of thousands could lose their jobs when the ‘furlough’ subsidy runs out in October.
Many others face the prospect of low-paid, precarious and unfulfilling work, poverty pay, inadequate apprenticeships or a dead-end job in the gig economy.
College and university students also have to work long hours to support themselves. Tuition fees have made debt the first adult experience of their lives. This is shameful.
Even those who are in work or college struggle to find a home in their local community, near family or in areas they really want to live in. Home ownership for the younger generation is often a pipe-dream or a question of inheritance.
Violent crime and anti-social behaviour have been escalating across our society, with a disproportionate impact on young people themselves.
But we must not allow this to become the first generation in the modern era to live a worse life than those who have gone before. In the face of adversity, young people are right to fight for a brighter future.
That’s why Communists call for free access to council-run leisure centres and facilities, with efforts to encourage regular use among all young people.
The reopening and expansion of youth centres will also be essential as we emerge from the Covid lockdowns, giving young people a friendly, open place to gather and socialise outside school or work.
The negative impact of austerity on library and leisure facilities and services also needs to be reversed, with special grants available to ensure adequate access for our disabled fellow citizens. In rural and inner city areas, councils should establish internet and digital service hubs opening up free access to people without wifi.
Of course, this will only be made possible by an emergency and longer-term injection of funds into the youth and community services devastated by a decade of short-sighted public spending cuts.
The Young Communist League is the fastest growing political youth organisation in Britain. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the YCL has begun its biggest campaign in decades to win support for its Youth Charter (https://ycl.org.uk/youth-charter/).
The aims of the Charter include:
- A real living wage with an end to casualisation and age discrimination in pay.
- A new apprenticeship system and real jobs with trade union and employment rights.
- More council housing and tighter private sector rent controls.
- Public transport network cards for young people with capped, affordable prices.
- Free college and university education.
- Free access to government and council cultural, leisure and sports facilities.
- Free access to all NHS Healthcare and improved mental and sexual health services.
Young people are the future. They can make a better Wales and a better world. They can rely on the Welsh Communists for support and solidarity.