Re-Engaging Youth

Why do less than 25 per cent of voters between the ages 18 to 25 bother to vote in elections? What do young voters make of the NDP? How will they shape the future of politics in this country?

To begin to answer these questions, we need to really understand that the real world young British Columbians live in is not the world the baby boomers grew up in. Some young people with the right set of job skills and personal characteristics do very well, and as the baby boom retirement wave starts to take effect in the next few years, employment opportunities should increase. But the reality for the majority today is that employment opportunities tend to be concentrated in low-wage, part time positions, usually in the unorganized service sector. In many smaller communities, new employment opportunities are often extremely scarce, reflecting increased mechanization in traditional resource sectors, and the centralization or downsizing of many service sector jobs, including jobs in the public sector.

The school system and the mass media do a thorough job of telling young people that their life prospects will be very poor without a good education, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to be accepted into post-secondary programs. Students frequently acquire a large debt load pursuing a university degree or technical education, but often find that post-secondary qualifications are by no means a guarantee of a good job.

Many traditional NDP concerns, such as reducing exploitation in the work place and protecting the environment, continue to be very relevant. And many policies of the Liberal government have had an extremely negative impact on young people. But to just be the voice of opposition will not likely be very productive. To be a truly relevant political force, the new NDP must do a better job of understanding and representing the values, vision and style of young voters.

Policy initiatives

Please send comments on the Campaign for Change policy working papers to [email protected] before

November1, 2003