Today’s ONS Labour Market Bulletin, provides further data about the changing relationship between young people, education and employment. Even if it’s still much higher than for other age groups, youth unemployment continues to fall. For July to September 2017, joblessness for 16 to 24 year olds was 11.9% ( down from 13.1% a year earlier and close to the lowest ever recorded). The data also shows that over a third of those classified as unemployed are full-time students looking for part time work.
There’s been a 42 000 increase in the number of young people dropping out of the labour market in the last 3 months – but the number in full-time education has increased by another 20 000, a continuation of a long term trend. Between March to May 1992 and July to September 2017 the proportion of people aged from 16 to 24 who were in full-time education increased substantially from 26.2% to 44.3%. Since 2007, numbers of 18-24 year olds in full-time learning have gone up from 27% to 33%. Though there has been a 270 000 increase in the size of the total labour force in the last 12 months – employment among 18-24 year olds (including students) has fallen.
An increase in the number of young people in FT education is generally considered to be a good thing, representing an increase in the nation’s stock of ‘human capital’: but it’s also a reflection of how many traditional employment opportunities have disappeared and how apprenticeships have not provided a satisfactory alternative. A more ‘highly qualified’ society doesn’t always lead to a more productive one.