Since the election of New Labour in 1997, young people's relationship to work and to the labour market has been the subject of intense scrutiny and policy activity. By equipping young workers with the qualifications and skills they are held to need in the knowledge economy, the government hopes to reconcile its quest for economic progress with the commitment to social justice for young people. However, as this article argues, the importance invested in this area of `youth policy' overlays a more fundamental process of disengagement in which New Labour is presiding over the withdrawal of those traditional sources of support it has held out to the young. For this reason, the article concludes by suggesting that the importance that New Labour attaches to policy for young workers tells us more about the needs of government than it does about the needs of young people
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