Helen Martin: It’s not who you know, it’s rampant global capitalism

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YOUNGSTERS from poorer backgrounds are disadvantaged because of their lack of family connections. That’s according to research commissioned by the Prince’s Trust.

Around 44 per cent of kids who receive free school dinners and come from low-income families don’t know anyone who could help them find a job or work experience to enhance their ambitions because their parents don’t have the right contacts.

Now maybe I’m wrong, but hasn’t that always been the case?

There will always be rich and poor – even when Communism applied equal wages for all in the USSR there was still an elite living in luxury.

None of us can control the level of intelligence or brain power we are born with and it stands to reason that the brighter and more intellectually capable a person is, the higher the salary they can potentially command.

From the moment man stepped out of his cave, social status, networking and family connections have been crucial in achievement – and no-one should recognise that more than Prince Charles!

Edinburgh – like any other city in the world – is built on haves and have-nots with a booming housing market including properties fetching millions, financial and legal sectors that mean many make more in a year than a hard-working poor person will earn in a lifetime, a thriving independent school sector that turns out high-achievers with a “who you know” advantage, and a chronic shortage of low-rent homes for people who couldn’t afford to buy a garden shed.

Life isn’t fair. It never has been and the poor have always struggled and lived in a different world from the rich.

What is new is that over the last few decades even our working poor have become even poorer. Hundreds of thousands of our workers are exploited by zero hours contracts, working hours which far exceed their contractual obligations and in conditions which require them to be nailed to a desk for at least eight hours a day.

We might look back to the industrialised days of jobs in mining and shipbuilding with horror but families saw one generation after another having job security and promotional prospects for life. And while technology, global competition and automation made previously skilled jobs extinct, these have been replaced with call centre, retail and service sector jobs that offer low pay and require so little training that staff are disposable.

The UK is drastically short of care staff for the elderly and Brexit will make that even worse. It’s a tough, demanding role that requires empathy, tolerance, understanding, compassion and an element of mind-reading. Ask any home manager and they will tell you how difficult it is to recruit good and well-trained staff – yet it pays barely more than the living wage.

The amount and quality of work available and the rates paid has fallen dramatically, while at the other end of the scale, business executives and senior managers are being paid more and more, causing an increasing spiral of comparative poverty and unrest.

The Prince’s Trust is correct. Youngsters from poor families now are more disadvantaged but it’s got nothing to do with parental connections and everything to do with extreme global capitalism, corporate greed, lack of government intervention and a very short-sighted view of the national economy. Unless something urgent is done to address our employment situation we are headed for disaster.