Three young protestors

The Wales of the future – by the people who’ll live in it

Published: 10/07/20 | Categories: Author: Joe Stockley

In this blog, WCVA Trustee Joe Stockley and six other young Welsh people express their ideas for what they’d like ‘the Wales of the future’ to look like.

Hi – I’m Joe, aged 24. On evenings and weekends, I’m a trustee (for WCVA and the British Youth Council) and in the day I do comms for a charity called Diverse Cymru.

I really love the Welsh voluntary sector, I really love food, I really love supporting young people to speak about stuff they care about (only when stuff happens afterwards as a result).

If I log onto any news media website right this second, I reckon I could find you a story about how young people are really having a tough time of Covid, how young people are really going to be shafted when lockdown ends, how young people’s mental health is in the pan, along with their finances (and their social lives). Turns out two global recessions before 25 isn’t great for careers and mental health – who knew? The Independent Labour Organisation refers to the ‘triple shock’ inbound for young people – ‘destruction of work, disruption to training and education, and obstacles moving in the work force’.

But where are young people’s voices within that? Lots of organisations want to talk to young people, but when was the last time you filled in a survey and you ever found out what happened as a result of that survey? I honestly couldn’t name you one. And I’ve done a lot of surveys.

I got fed up of reading about the demise of our generation. I love our generation, I think we’re full of brilliant minds, smart ideas and intelligent concepts that put our shared humanity first. I’m on the Better Futures Wales steering group and we wanted to get talking about ideas, the future, what we would like to see the world become. So I pulled together some young people from around Wales to contribute their ideas about a Wales of the future, and collated their ideas below.

If we are allowed to dream of a Wales that thinks of the future, and people actually want to hear what we have to say, give us the space to do it. Step back, open the floor, listen, then act on the feedback. Complete the loop.

‘I want to see a Wales where working culture is a collaboration between all partners’

‘COVID-19 has shown us that a more flexible, collaborative working culture is completely possible. Despite what disabled people have been told for years, adapting to the needs of employees doesn’t have to be ‘blue sky thinking’, but before COVID-19 any change seemed too far in the future to imagine. Having also been involved in the trade union movement, any fight to make working culture something that works better for everyone has been just that, a fight, and we’ve seen people put their employees’ health at risk for a bottom line.

‘I want to see a Wales where workplaces and working culture is a product of collaboration between all partners. Where employees, especially disabled employees, trade unions and employers can come together to create something that really works for everyone, not just a few people. A democratic working culture that is led by the needs of the employees themselves could have incredible implications for the future of young people in Wales.’

‘The last ten weeks have helped develop an even stronger generation’

‘Young people have helped shape the world by placing key issues higher on political agendas. A generation with a purpose: to make a difference.

‘Though the impact of Coronavirus has been felt by everyone, young people are one of the demographics hardest hit – they characteristically have lower incomes and smaller living spaces. Yet they have continued to focus on making a difference, from setting up community initiatives to volunteering and more- young people have made life easier for us all.

‘The last ten weeks have helped develop an even stronger generation who will find a way to overcome whatever adversity is thrown at them. This has highlighted the importance of a fairer society where young people have a voice without fighting for it.

If young people can continue to make change even when the world is ‘closed’, there’s no telling what will happen when we’re back to ‘normal’.’

  • Holly, 23, PR & Communications Officer, Taff Housing @hollymcanoy

‘Covid gives us a chance to redress the balance of power’

‘While by no means exhaustive, let’s call this a ‘glasnost’ for the rural arts and non-London artistic scene. For far too long the central arts culture of the United Kingdom has purported to be in London, despite the vast works from Wales and other parts of the country. Covid gives us a long overdue chance to redress the balance of power.

‘To start, we need a wealth tax on the West End. A modest two per cent tax on ticket income would generate a fund of roughly 30 million pounds. This would be given to the Arts Councils in all the home nations equally, specifically for work outside of the capital.

‘This would be able to kickstart the rebirth of theatre and art outside of London after the virus passes. London venues are far more resilient than their counterparts in Wales – we must ensure ours are not left behind.’

‘I fear the cost of living will increase dramatically, and many young people can’t afford this’

‘Just like many others during these unprecedented times, I have been working from home since the middle of March and it has been driving me mad. (Mainly due to IT issues.) Prior to the pandemic outbreak I was due to receive a promotion and much-needed wage rise, which brings me nicely on to the subject that I wish to discuss – pay.

‘During a tea break earlier this week, I decided to have a look at the latest Covid-19 updates on Twitter. The words ‘real living wage’ caught my eye. ‘The only wage rate based on what people need to live,’ was the description that I was met with, which raised the question of why the statutory wage rates are not based on this as well.

‘Also, why should an employer be given the ability to only pay the National Living Wage when an employee reaches 25? Life does not automatically become more expensive when you turn 25, but that is what these statutory wage rates imply.

‘My main concern with entering the post-coronavirus period is whether the issues raised above will ever be addressed. I fear that the cost of living will increase dramatically once we return to normal, and so many young people will not be able to afford this.’

  • Sean, 24, Trainee Costs Draftsman, Compass Costs

‘Rural young people are some of the hardest hit by the crisis’

‘Laptop in hand, I’m climbing to the highest point on the farm for the third time today – the only place where I’m guaranteed to be able to download attachments or upload videos. With 4G connection, I watch the upload bar edge closer to the 100% goal line as my data allowance drains. Despite having a monthly contract with a wi-fi provider, my work commitments can’t always be met by the weak connection that often disappears without warning in the middle of a Zoom call, leaving those on the other end talking into the void.

‘My story is by no means unique. A survey undertaken by the Rural Youth Project (RYP) in 2018 found that 94% of young respondents believed digital connectivity to be essential to their future, yet only 13% had access to high speed infrastructure.

‘Then, almost overnight, everyone who could do their work from home repurposed their kitchen tables, gardens or beds into their new, for now, temporary offices. For many with slow internet connections, this has been challenging. For others, it’s threatening their livelihoods.

‘But it’s not only our work lives that have migrated online since lockdown measures came into force. So have our social lives. More of our purchasing takes place in internet shops. Some of our medical appointments have started to take place on conference calls and even Eisteddfod prelims are done via the likes of YouTube.

‘Early findings of an ongoing RYP survey found that young people have identified improvement in digital connectivity as a priority in the Covid-19 recovery. When more and more of the daily activities that determine our wellbeing become digital affairs, we’re at risk of leaving people behind.

‘As the first nation in the world to put the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into law, we’d be remiss to allow something that looks to become so central to economic, cultural, social and environmental success to remain out of reach for our own rural communities. This connection would also allow us to achieve so many more of the objectives laid out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

‘Rural young people are on course to become some of the hardest hit by the crisis and must be given access to the tools they need to participate in the rebuilding. One of the key tools will be digital connectivity. As we seek to ‘build back better’, we have an opportunity to break down one of the barriers that keep young people from choosing rural areas as places to build their lives.

‘Investing in fast rural broadband will set a path to growing vibrant rural communities; to resilient rural businesses that provide sustainable opportunities and boost the wellbeing of their local communities and environment; rural residents having better access to mental health services; rural schools that can maintain digital connections with their counterparts across the world, nurturing globally responsible, and culturally rich young people.

‘For Wales to thrive in a post-Covid world, rural communities must be included in the recovery. And to be included, they must be connected.’

‘It’s high time we recognised the value of education and skills’

‘For me, the Covid crisis has evoked memories of the 08/09 financial crash. I was 15 or 16 and remember people losing their jobs and queueing outside Northern Rock, trying to get hold of their cash. I remember people stressing about mortgages, rent and putting food on their tables.

‘We’re sleepwalking into an even bigger, sharper recession in 2020.

‘The Resolution Foundation have looked at the 08/09 crisis and what we might expect from Covid and the results are terrifying. We know that education skills drive productivity and growth and we know that, in addition to Covid, automation, AI and the climate crisis stand to have a huge impact on our economy.

‘It’s high time we recognised the value of education and skills and, in partnership with young people, radically overhaul our system to make it fit for the future, inclusive and accessible.’

  • Rob, 26, Policy Officer in the Welsh Higher Education Sector @RobSimkins1

Thanks for reading – if this has interested you, or sparked an idea, or you’re keen to write your own blog, please let us know by emailing WCVA’s Policy team on policy@wcva.cymru.