"I feel like it's just going to get worse": young people, marginality and neoliberal personhoods in austere times

Daniela Sime, Rebecca Reynolds

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Austerity has had a disproportionate impact on young people across Europe. Youth poverty is now acute, especially since the economic recession began in 2008. Young people are especially disadvantaged, compared to other age groups (Fahmy, 2015). In the UK, welfare reforms and cuts to service provision (Ortiz 2011; Hopwood 2012), alongside high levels of youth unemployment and insecure work (Boyd 2014), combine to make young lives precarious, particularly for those growing up in deprived neighbourhoods, which have been the hardest hit (Beatty and Fothergill 2013). There has been limited research on how young people experience poverty and associated stigma in austerity (Blackman and Rogers, 2017), especially in the new context of increasing neoliberal governance which emphasises the role of employment and puts the main responsibility on young people as the makers of their own success. The ideal neoliberal subject is thus the ‘enterprising self’ (Kelly, 2006), who can easily adapt to the needs of an unstable labour market and require little or no support from the state. Like in the past, young people are expected to move into adulthood and secure qualifications, employment and housing, however, with an increasing rollback of services and cuts to welfare, pathways are not linear anymore. The transitions that young people are engaged in as they move to adulthood are marked by new risks and uncertainties, framed over the last two decades by on-going reforms implemented under the pretext of austerity. The social problems are re-positioned beyond a liberal welfare governmentality where the enterprising self is presented as the solution to the risks associated with industrial modernity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAusterity Across Europe
Subtitle of host publicationLiving, Feeling and Experiencing Economic Crises
EditorsSarah Marie Hall, Helena Pimlott-Wilson, John Horton
Place of PublicationOxon
Number of pages15
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Oct 2019



  • austerity
  • poverty
  • young people
  • neoliberalism
  • youth unemployment
  • Scotland
  • social policy
  • education

Cite this

Sime, D., & Reynolds, R. (Accepted/In press). "I feel like it's just going to get worse": young people, marginality and neoliberal personhoods in austere times. In S. M. Hall, H. Pimlott-Wilson, & J. Horton (Eds.), Austerity Across Europe: Living, Feeling and Experiencing Economic Crises Oxon.