Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley Federation News Spring 2012
UK youth unemployment continues to be alarmingly high and one of the biggest issues facing government. Based on the April Office for National Statistics – figures which cover the period December 2011 to Feb 2012 – youth joblessness is well over a million, equals 22.2% while nearly half of young Black men are unemployed (ref). These figures include full-time students looking for work. Nevertheless, using those ‘not in full-time education and training’ as a basis for calculation, unemployment amongst 16-24 years still remains at 20.5%. In addition, approaching 700,000 young people in this category are classified as ‘economically inactive’ – many having ‘given up’ looking for a job.
As is well known, youth unemployment is not just a problem in the UK. Spain and Greece now have rates of over 40% with the EU average at around 23%; it is only Germany, Austria and the Netherlands where rates are below 1 in 10. Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation has recently estimated that globally, at the end of 2010 over 75 million young people were out of work. Significantly, the ILO also reports large increases in unemployment in developed countries and that more young people than ever are now ‘hiding’ – temporarily dropping out of the labour market, hoping that prospects will improve in the future (Allen and Ainley, 2012).
Some recent commentaries explain young people’s predicament in terms of a generation war. Tory Minister David Willetts (Willetts 2010) argues that today’s youth are paying the price for the excesses of the baby boomer generation, while for Howker and Malik (2010) we have been left with a ‘jilted generation’. A crude analysis of young unemployment might also consider it the result of an increasingly ‘ageing’ workforce. Though this article agrees that young people’s declining opportunities are the result of changes in economy and society, it argues the need for new types of employment policies as a whole rather than simply emphasising generational redistribution…..