NOTHINGSACRED

YOBS RULE, OK!: Un­grate­ful and un­washed ‘youf’ bur­den the Bri­tish tax­payer

Finweek English Edition - - COLUMN - STEPHEN MUL­HOL­LAND

One of the fac­tors at work in Bri­tain is

that young peo­ple aren’t pre­pared to take me­nial and rel­a­tively low-paid jobs

NAPOLEON BON­A­PARTE fa­mously and dis­parag­ingly de­scribed the English as a nation of shop­keep­ers. Were he to re­turn he might call to­day’s English a nation of yobs. Hav­ing just passed a week in ru­ral France – fol­lowed by a week in the Cotswolds – I’ve been struck by the dif­fer­ences.

France works. There’s a pal­pa­ble sense of civic pride in even the small­est of vil­lages. You can safely sit at a pave­ment cafe and not be both­ered by drunken young louts bel­low­ing at one an­other and any­one else in hear­ing, as is the case in Eng­land. At night – even in de­cent neigh­bour­hoods in Eng­land – it isn’t at all un­usual to be kept awake by these feral crea­tures prowl­ing the streets. Most of them are unem­ployed and on ben­e­fits – un­grate­ful and un­washed bur­dens on the Bri­tish tax­payer.

While un­em­ploy­ment of those aged 18 to 24 in Bri­tain – at 20% – is seen here as a disas­ter it is of course not in the same league as ours. An Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment study of 36 coun­tries placed South Africa worst at 50% youth un­em­ploy­ment.

One of the fac­tors at work in Bri­tain is young peo­ple aren’t pre­pared to take me­nial and rel­a­tively low-paid jobs. Wel­fare – ei­ther their own or that of their par­ents, boyfriends, girlfriends or fel­low squat­ters – makes it pos­si­ble for them to laze around be­tween puff­ing pot and binge drink­ing.

There was an echo of SA in a com­ment by Bri­tish Cham­bers of Com­merce di­rec­tor David Frost on the fact that Bri­tish busi­nesses of­ten pre­fer to em­ploy young­sters from coun­tries such as Latvia and Poland, as they tend to be far bet­ter ed­u­cated and mo­ti­vated than their Bri­tish coun­ter­parts.

Busi­nesses, Frost said, ex­pected “young peo­ple to come for­ward who are able to read, write and com­mu­ni­cate and have a strong work ethic, and too of­ten that’s not the case”. Both SA and Bri­tain have suf­fered from ru­inous ed­u­ca­tion from what the Daily Tele­graph calls decades of “lib­eral tin­ker­ing”.

An in­sid­i­ous ef­fect of the wel­fare state is, of course, the self-per­pet­u­at­ing cul­ture of de­pen­dency. In some fam­i­lies there have been no em­ployed mem­bers in gen­er­a­tions and in SA – with 15m out of a pop­u­la­tion of 50m now draw­ing ben­e­fits – we face an even bleaker fu­ture than Bri­tain, where 6m out of 62m draw ben­e­fits.

And the wel­fare state at­tracts for­eign spongers as honey does bees – with of­ten bizarre re­sults. Re­cently a Nige­rian woman who had been tak­ing a course of high-dose fer­til­ity tablets flew to Bri­tain for the sole pur­pose of giv­ing birth to quin­tu­plets on the Na­tional Health Ser­vice. That cost the NHS well over R2m and the proud mother is now re­fus­ing to re­turn to Nige­ria – claim­ing that, her five ba­bies hav­ing been born in Bri­tain, she is en­ti­tled to re­main here. Should she suc­ceed it can be guar­an­teed the state will have to pro­vide life­long sus­te­nance.

The rot­ten state of Bri­tish wel­fare is also re­flected by the cost to tax­pay­ers of hous­ing some Lon­don fam­i­lies on wel­fare cost­ing more than R1m/year alone. Crit­ics of the wel­fare state point to that sort of ex­am­ple as a sit­u­a­tion in which work­ing tax­pay­ers are forced to fi­nance a life­style they them­selves can’t af­ford.

There are lessons here for SA. The State would be ill-ad­vised not to take into ac­count the dan­ger of los­ing even more skilled and ex­pe­ri­enced tax­pay­ers faced with a grow­ing bur­den that’s em­ployed prin­ci­pally to pro­vide Gov­ern­ment jobs and to fund wel­fare. It makes no sense in our sit­u­a­tion to em­bark on grandiose schemes such as a na­tional health ser­vice. If Bri­tain can’t make it work, how can SA ex­pect to? Our Gov­ern­ment faces un­en­vi­able choices but we must stop be­hav­ing as if there’s a bot­tom­less pit of money to fund our grow­ing wel­fare class, a bur­geon­ing pub­lic sec­tor with all its en­ti­tle­ments, a crip­pled ed­u­ca­tional struc­ture, and so on.

No sys­tem is per­fect, but the path to ruin surely lies in the em­brace of the failed no­tions of so­cial­ism and col­lec­tivism?

stephenm@finweek.co.za

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