To paraphrase The Sun, it was the young that won it. Well, not exactly, but early estimates from Thursday’s General Election put turnout amongst 18-24 year olds at 72% (although official figures have not yet been released). The rise in the number of young voters seems to have done much to elevate Jeremy Corbyn from hapless party leader facing onslaught after onslaught from his own party to arguably the real ‘strong and stable’ leader.
Although Theresa May is set to form a collation with Northern Ireland’s DUP and continue as prime minster, the political landscape is undeniably shifting. It seems that the young have learnt their lesson from failing to vote at the EU referendum poll and as a result, we are seeing genuine political engagement from this age group.
Could this be a new brave new political dawn, signalling a world in which young people actually matter to the political classes? Has the grey vote had its day? If this pattern continues, UK politicians could find themselves with vastly different priorities – which take into account the concerns and aspirations of the young.
So what are the concerns of younger voters? Here are five ways this surge could reshape the UK landscape.
- Cheaper university fees
A divisive issue, the cost of tuition fees have risen substantially to make the UK one of the most expensive places in the world to study. But increased engagement from the current crop of students who are keen to see the full value of their degree and pressure on the government from the rejuvenated youth could see these fees lowered or even scrapped altogether.
- More favourable conditions for self-employed workers
As a generation with different expectations of work from their parents, this demographic expects to eke out as much purpose as they can from their jobs, and for a better work life balance. This, and the relatively insecure job market for this age group mean many young are either setting up businesses or freelancing, the tax regime for the self-employed could change radically in the coming years as it looks to accommodate and nurture the entrepreneurial generation. Equally, with the self-employed currently effectively excluded from initiatives such as pensions auto-enrolment, we could expect to see such schemes expanded to help boost the chances of such workers being able to enjoy a comfortable retirement.
- Subsidised travel
Lower disposable incomes mean that young people welcome all the help they can get when it comes to cutting down on essential spending. Equally, a rise in the number of young people seeking ‘experiences’ over material objects means that demand for travel has increased. The additional issue of poor customer satisfaction across our rail networks could see pressure on services to offer more affordable seats.
- More ethically responsible goods and services
With young people increasingly motivated by a sense of ‘authenticity’ and purpose and having the ability through social media to hold companies to account, they are driving a push towards greater corporate social responsibility from firms. This has led to improved quality and sourcing of products. A niche but potentially important area that could really benefit from this surge is that of impact investing, which aims to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.
- More affordable housing
With house prices being kept artificially high through a combination of low interest rates and supply chains being overwhelmed by demand, many young people have been shut out of the market and forced into high cost rental properties. However, with a younger demographic to appeal to, the government could finally make decisive steps towards building more affordable living and helping stabilise prices.
Of course, it’s early days yet and while an important battle has been won for the young vote, long term victory is far from assured. But if the current trends continue, expect these issues to take even more of a central role on the agenda of those shaping our country.