Youth labour’s lost

Youth employment is currently in crisis, with nearly a million young people registered unemployed. Yet beneath a recession-driven short-term squeeze on job creation lies a potentially more serious problem: the steady rise of youth unemployment as a share of total unemployment over the last 20 years. Arguments that this rise is due to competition from immigrant labour and older workers are inconclusive. More plausibly it seems there exists a ‘young persons penalty’, whereby younger workers are held back by the fact they lack experience, yet they are pushed through a system that often does little to make up for this.

Youth Labour’s Lost draws on quantitative analysis from a range of sources, including the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England and education and employment data from the Office for National Statistics. It also draws on qualitative research with young people and UK employers. Through these two lenses researchers identify the salient patterns in the UK’s youth labour market, and attempt to isolate the underlying causes of its long-term problem with youth unemployment.

In order to reverse the growing trend of youth joblessness, this pamphlet suggests that there are four crucial areas of intervention: post-16 vocational education; incentives to work; one-to-one job search advice; and targeted programmes for young people with personal problems. Government is moving in the right direction on all these fronts, but unless it is both more consistent and more radical in presenting a new offer for young people, the UK will continue to see its youth’s labour lost.