By Rory Weal
One million young people are now unemployed according to figures (pdf) released today. As the graph below shows, it is the first time since records began in 1992 this figure has hit seven digits. The increase highlights the enormity of the situation hitting Britain’s young people.
The figures come at a time of faltering growth and contractions in public sector employment as well as wide-sweeping government spending cuts. Public sector job cuts of 610,000, as estimated by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), are widely expected to exacerbate the situation in narrowing job opportunities for graduates and school leavers.
A report by the CIPD earlier this week warned of a “slow and painful employment contraction2 for the UK in coming months. It all paints a bleak outlook for young people’s prospects in entering the jobs market.
As a result the pressure on the government to act quickly and decisively is ratcheting up.
Yesterday, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) called on the government to:
“Call a halt to public sector job cuts while the economy and labour market remain in the current fragile condition.”
Further pressure was piled on the government from Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie, who said:
“Britain’s uneven playing field is causing an entire generation of the most disadvantaged teenagers to become ‘lost in transition’. Proof of this lies in the unemployment rate for 16 and 17-year-olds, which has almost doubled over the last decade.”
Carrie’s comments come alongside Barnardos’ latest report, which criticised the government in focusing primarily on young people from the age of 18 and above and ignoring the situation facing 16 and 17 year olds.
The government’s inability to address spiralling youth unemployment and failure to take robust and decisive action demonstrates either total incompetence, shocking complacency, or, most worryingly, a complete lack of interest in the issue.
The situation needs bold and decisive action to tackle what is set to blight an entire generation of young people.
A substantial investment in jobs for young people, similar to the Future Jobs Fund (which was scrapped last May), as well as a halt to the drastic and devastating public sector job cuts would go some of the way to tackle escalating youth unemployment.
And a considerable increase in the number of apprenticeships available to school leavers would equip the next generation with the skills they need to obtain work, as IPPR director Nick Pearce explained:
“Apprenticeships can help young people break out of the unemployment trap by offering additional general education, the chance to learn the ‘soft skills’ that employers often demand and specific job-related training.”
To address the narrowing of access to education, which is having a serious effect on youth unemployment rates, the government should think again about the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance and take action to bring under control spiralling public transport costs – such as the 8% average rail fare rise next year – to ensure that young people can afford to stay on in education.
Put simply, the government needs to act, and it needs to act now.
• Osborne’s refusal to increase demand leaves young unemployed without hope – Tony Dolphin, November 14th 2011
• The devastating crisis hitting Britain’s young people – Rory Weal, November 9th 2011
• Fees, cuts… Is this what Cameron means by “giving young people back their future”? – Shamik Das, September 14th 2011
• Right’s dodgy youth unemployment attack on minimum wage – Dominic Browne, April 13th 2011
• OECD calls on Gove to save EMA – James Mills, April 8th 2011