Press Story

  • Over one in three of Scotland’s young workforce could be unemployed later this year – the highest ever level since records began
  • Urgent action needed over the coming weeks and months to meet the ‘100,000 challenge’ to provide 100,000 new opportunities for young people through learning or working.

IPPR Scotland has published new research which shows the scale of the youth unemployment challenge Scotland could face later this year.

In the think tank’s ‘central scenario’, based on forecasts from the UK Office of Budget Responsibility, youth unemployment in Scotland could surge past 100,000 young people later this year as the furlough schemes end and the UK as a whole enters a jobs crisis. This would see over one in three of Scotland’s young workforce (16-24 year olds looking for work) facing youth unemployment – the highest level since records began.

The think tank warns that youth unemployment could be worse than this in a reasonable worst-case ‘downside’ scenario, with over 140,000 young people unemployedby the end of 2020. In the ‘upside’ scenario, youth unemployment increases hugely, but stays around 80,000 and beneath the level seen following the 2008/09 financial crash.

The ‘scarring effects’ of unemployment early in someone’s career are well-documented, with people who experience youth unemployment for a significant time facing a pay gap that many never close throughout the rest of their working lives. This could have significant implications for health and wellbeing and cause significant long-term damage to Scotland’s economy.

To protect a generation of young people, IPPR Scotland is calling for urgent action over the coming weeks to meet what it’s calling the ‘100,000 challenge’ – providing 100,000 new opportunities in Scotland across education, skills and employment. This will need urgent action from government, colleges and universities, and employers in Scotland. The think tank is also calling on the UK Government to maintain support for jobs across the economy by replacing the furlough scheme with a ‘short-time work scheme’, as seen in France and Germany, that would see employers able to offer subsidised part-time work rather than being forced into laying people off.

The UK Government has announced a Kickstarter Job Scheme that is due to begin in the autumn, however details so far are lacking. Further details on the Scottish Government’s own £60m Scottish Youth Guarantee are also awaited. The think tank fears neither scheme is likely to reach the scale required as things stand.

Russell Gunson, Director of IPPR Scotland, said:

“If these projections turn out to be true we will see youth unemployment on a scale we’ve never seen before in Scotland later this year. Over 100,000 young people – or more than one in three of Scotland’s young workforce - could be unemployed by the end of the year. This is unprecedented, and will need unprecedented action over the coming weeks and months without delay.

“While both the UK and Scottish governments have announced action to try to stave off youth unemployment, we have not yet seen the scale of action meet the scale of the challenge.

“As the school year starts and as we approach the new academic year for college and universities, we need to act now to help those without a place in education or training and without a job. That will need action from across Scotland – including government but also from businesses, employers, colleges and universities.

“We are facing a ‘100,000 challenge’ in Scotland. The question we must ask and urgently answer is how do we create 100,000 new opportunities for young people in Scotland over the rest of this year? Through further additional college and university places, through even greater investment in learning and training, and through action by employers to try to protect opportunities for young people it is more than possible. But we must now act at a pace and a scale not yet seen.”



Russell Gunson, Director IPPR Scotland on or 07766 904 332.


  1. Russell Gunson, Director IPPR Scotland is available for interview.
  2. Advance copies of the research are available on request.
  3. IPPR Scotland is Scotland’s progressive think tank. We are cross-party, progressive, and neutral on the question of Scotland’s independence. IPPR Scotland is dedicated to supporting and improving public policy in Scotland, working tirelessly to achieve a progressive Scotland. For more information, visit:
  4. This research is produced as part of IPPR Scotland’s Rethinking Social Security programme, funded and supported by the Standard Life Foundation. It will be published at after the embargo. The Standard Life Foundation are an independent charitable foundation whose mission is to contribute towards strategic change which improves financial well-being in Scotland and across the UK. Their aim to work to see everyone to have a decent standard of living and have more control over their finances.