FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
10.00 Wednesday 26 October, 2011
Demos calls for end to NEET measure
- Minimum wage for 18-24 year olds should be raised to full adult rate (currently £6.08 per hour)
- Tax and National Insurance breaks for businesses employing 18-20 year old
- Government should develop a Work Baccalaureate for 16-19 year-olds
Government should stop measuring the number of 16-24 year olds Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) according to a report published tomorrow by the think tank Demos. The term NEET gives an unhelpful and inaccurate picture of young people’s circumstances and adds to social stigma, ‘smothering’ the problem of youth unemployment and hindering the development of effective, targeted policy, the report will warn.
The 979,000 young people who were NEET in the second quarter of 2011 included gap year students, stay-at-home parents, prisoners and university graduates, many of whom do not need specially targeted support in terms of education and training. The think tank warns that moral panic over NEETs is obscuring the specific difficulties young people are experiencing in preparing for and entering the jobs market.
The think tank is calling for a ‘new deal’ for young people in 2015 when the compulsory participation age for education will rise to 18. Rather than stigmatising a massive swathe of young people as NEET the Government should focus on a comprehensive new offer on youth employment – one that combines improved 16-19 vocational education, improved incentives for work and improved job-search support. Charities and voluntary sector organisations should continue to be supported by government to help all young people to enter the labour market.
The report, Youth Labour’s Lost recommends:
Drop the quarterly measure for NEETs altogether. By 2015, young people up to the age of 18 will be legally required to be in full-time education or training and the few who are not should be considered as truanting. Those who have finished compulsory education should simply be classed as ‘unemployed’ or ‘economically inactive’ like the rest of the adult population, and, where appropriate, receive targeted support to get them into work.
Raise the minimum wage for 18-20 year-olds to the full adult rate (currently £6.08 per hour) by 2015. Eighteen year-olds often take on low-status jobs and use them as stepping stones to better employment. To encourage them to take the first steps on such a career path the full minimum wage should be on offer. Timed to coincide with the age-rise for compulsory education, this increase would provide greater financial stability for young people who often find themselves in debt even when they are in work. It could also encourage employers to offer more apprenticeships, which have a lower minimum wage in exchange for training.
Compensate employers for the rise in the minimum wage for 18-20 year-olds with National Insurance waivers and credits. Due to increased revenue from taxation the Government could compensate employers for almost half of the increase in wages for 18-20 year-olds. This measure would continue to give 18-20 year-olds a comparative advantage in the labour market and would be cost-neutral to the state.
Introduce a Work Baccalaureate. Under the umbrella of a WorkBacc certificate with different areas of vocational specialisation, further education institutions should offer coherent two-year curricula that combine core skills in maths and English with occupationally specific skills, transferable work skills, work experience and some academic knowledge. The Work Bacc would certify to employers that a young person has acquired a rounded set of skills.
Offer targeted job-search support earlier. Regular one-to-one job search support is proven to increase the job-finding rate for young people. Earlier introduction to the Work Programme and earlier mandatory weekly meetings at Jobcentre Plus centres are crucial to reducing youth unemployment.
Matt Grist, author of the report said:
“The crude and inaccurate NEET measure distracts us from the specific barriers that prevent young people successfully entering the jobs market. One so-called NEET might be a university graduate who is unemployed, another an 18 year-old on a gap year and another a 16 year-old who left school without qualifications and needs one-to-one support.
“Once we set aside moral panic over an army of NEETs we can start to put together a comprehensive set of policies that will tackle the UK’s very real problem with long-term youth unemployment. The rise in the participation age in 2015 offers the perfect opportunity to do this.”
Jane Slowey CBE, Chief Executive, Foyer Federation said:
“Young people are our future. They are not a problem to be “solved” as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This report highlights the consequences of labelling young people, of concentrating on what they are not, rather than what they can achieve. If we invest in the talent and aspiration of all our young people, we will all reap the benefits.”
Notes to Editors
Youth unemployment is currently at 20.8 per cent, the highest since comparable records began in 1992. The percentage increase in unemployment between 2007 and 2009 was twice as high among 18-24 year-olds as the rest of the working age population. Long term youth unemployment is also increasing: the total number of 18-24 year-olds out of work for two years or more rose to 93,000 between May and July 2011, a 12 per cent rise on the previous quarter.
The youth unemployment rate started rising in the UK in 2004, four years before the effects of the financial crash of 2008 were felt.
One in three unemployed people in the UK are aged 15-24 compared with 1 in 4 France and the US, and 1 in 6 in Germany.
The unemployment rate for 16-17 year-olds is currently around 35 per cent but when only those who are not in full-time education are counted, the rate drops to about 12 per cent, in line with historical norms over the last twenty years. Conversely, the rate for 18-24 year-olds not in full-time education has been rising since 2004 and spiked upwards after 2008.
Young people’s pathways through education and employment are marked by ‘churn’ and flux, with those pursuing lower level vocational qualifications post-16 more likely to change between education, employment and unemployment several times.
Youth Labour’s Lost by Matt Grist, Jonathan Birdwell, Thomas Gregory and Jenny Ousbey is published on Thursday 27 October, 2011.
The report was funded by The Foyer Federation. The Foyer Federation is a not-for-profit organisation that helps to transform the circumstances of young people who have faced barriers in their lives. Since 1992, we have worked with young people to create new approaches developing the skills and resources they need to thrive
Demos is an independent think tank focused on power and politics. We develop and spread ideas to give people more power over their own lives. Our vision is of a democracy of powerful citizens, with an equal stake in society.
Beatrice Karol Burks
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