Protestors: What do we want? Youth jobs! When do we want it? Now!
Maggie: For the fourth year in a row, young people from around the Boston area rallied at the state house, demanding more money for youth job programs.
Members of the Boston Youth Jobs Coalition, the group that organized this student-led rally, say more funding means more opportunity.
Massachusetts teen: It gives you more of a voice. When you say you have a job, it means something. For me, it means I have somewhere to be. I am somebody.
Protestors: Don’t be a hater! Use teen labor!
Maggie: The rally attracted political attention to an often overlooked job sector.
Why should we care about youth jobs?
Dan: It’s definitely a crisis point. The nation and Massachusetts are facing the highest level of teen unemployment since the Great Depression. So what’s at stake is you’re losing a generation of really, really talented young people.
Maggie: Teen employment is at a record low. Only 27% of young people have jobs. Compare that to 54% in 1999. And among minorities, the rate of teen employment is even lower. Only 18% of African-Americans and 16% of Latino teens now have a job.
And for many teens, the money they earn isn’t just extra cash. It is actually going to the things they need.
Massachusetts teen: I would not have this phone, or I wouldn’t have any communication with anybody, if I didn’t have a job. I wouldn’t have the clothes that are on me if I didn’t have a job. So, it means a lot to me.
Maggie: Sometimes it means a lot to their entire family.
Dan: Help to pay the light bill; help to put food on the table; help to buy their school clothes. So, it is, like, really an important economic safety net.
Maggie: Youth Jobs Coalition members also warn that if there are not enough jobs for teens, some will find a way to get cash illegally.
Massachusetts teen: Nowadays, teens, they think selling drugs since they can’t find a job; they go instantly to selling drugs, selling weed.
Massachusetts teen: I was at a point where I actually wanted to sell drugs because I couldn’t get any money. So many people want to work so hard and actually do something productive but we’re not getting the advantages that we should be getting.
Maggie: That is why these Boston students are asking lawmakers for $16 million. Eleven million in salaries for teens at non-profit companies and 5 million for programs that recruit and train teens.
In order to pay for these programs, lawmakers in Massachusetts may have to increase taxes, which some say could hurt the economy. But Dan says, when more young people have jobs, it can actually give the country a boost.
How do youth jobs impact the greater U.S. economy?
Dan: Economic stimulus, because young people spend the money they make. They’re spending their money immediately. So, it actually – it puts more money into the economy. A lot of young people spend their money locally, so it helps with local business development.
Massachusetts teen: If you have a job, you feel like you have something to do, which is something productive. I’m getting a job; it’s time to get my education together; time to, like, live my life and actually become a grown adult.
Maggie: Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.