Almost a million young people are still NEET
There are still 968,000 young people (aged 16-24) who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) according to the latest official statistics published today.
The slight fall since the same time last year is described by the Department for Education’s statisticians as “not statistically significant”, meaning the number remains close to the highest since records began in 2000. That represents one in six young people aged 16-24 who are NEET.
Overall, unemploymentamong young people currently stands at 1,012,000 – close to its highest level since comparable records began in 1992. Youth unemployment rose during the boom years from 2004 that preceded the recession and has not fallen below half a million since the 1980s. Long periods of unemployment, or moving frequently from one temporary post to another, while people are young, has a ‘scarring effect’ that lasts throughout their working lives.
So what is the government doing about it? The new ‘Youth Contract’ is a plan for 160,000 job subsidies and an extra 20,000 apprenticeships but it has yet to have an impact. On its own, it is clearly not enough.
Resources are vital to tackling NEETs, as Barry Sherman’s education select committee showed in their excellent report at the end of the last Parliamentary session. A recent report from children’s charity Barnardos on the replacement to the EMA highlighted its inadequacy. Today’s figures show that for 16-18 year olds, the EMA is clearly missed.
A new report from IPPR, also published today, shows employers have become increasingly reluctant to hire teenagers, particularly in London. It shows young people are three times as likely as older workers to have been made redundant last year.
The report shows only six per cent of UK employers (three per cent in London) recruit straight from school and that, as a result, school leavers compete with more experienced workers for the same jobs. This reluctance has increased over time, despite the fact young people are better qualified than ever before. Many young people in the capital, where long-term employment prospects for young people fell last year, have reacted to the failed economic recovery by staying in or returning to education.
Young people are far more likely to be in temporary jobs than older workers and have been persistently less likely to remain in employment from one quarter to the next since the start of the recession.
Previous IPPR research shows apprenticeships – and vocational education more generally – play a key role in supporting young people’s transitions into work in many northern European countries where rates of youth unemployment are much lower than in Britain.
Reducing youth unemployment depends on returning the economy as a whole to growth and employment. Providing a job guarantee to all long-term unemployed young people, backed by an obligation to take up the work, could help to mitigate the ‘scarring’ effect for the rising numbers of young people out of work for long periods of time or cycling between numerous low paid jobs.
Other young people who are NEET have other problems to overcome. Many female NEETs have had a teenage pregnancy or are caring for other family members. Affordable childcare could help them, as well as other families.
Being NEET is no fun at all. Research from the Prince’s Trust shows young people who are NEETs are almost twice as likely as other young people to lack a sense of belonging in life. More than a third of NEETs (37 per cent) lack a sense of identity, and this figure rises to nearly half (47 per cent) for those out of work a year or longer. More than a third of unemployed young people (34 per cent) feel isolated all or most of the time, increasing to 45 per cent for those who have been out of work for a year or longer.
Almost half of young people not in work (48 per cent) claim unemployment has caused problems including self-harm, insomnia, self-loathing and panic attacks. Young people are twice as likely to self-harm or suffer panic attacks when they have been unemployed for a year.
This is a problem that is not going away. This generation of young people do not deserve to be abandoned. They deserve a far greater opportunity than they are currently getting.