The Solution to Youth Unemployment in the UK
Youth unemployment in the UK is trending downward. It has recently dipped below the 1 million mark and stands at a more PR friendly 930,000.
A new Local Government Authority report provides a stark counterpoint to the positivity surrounding this much vaunted “recovery”. It suggests that up to half of young people in England and Wales are currently unemployed or underemployed and that the true extent of the problem remains “hidden”.
To compound matters, this “hidden” population face an uncertain future with as many as 1/3 young people set to be “trapped” in unemployment or underemployment in 2018. Peter Box, the Chairman of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board has called the prospect “a travesty” and cautioned against allowing young people “ fly under the radar because of employment statistics that make us think the situation is improving”.
By focussing solely on unemployment, official figures overlook other symptoms of an unhealthy labour force such as underemployment and overqualified workers being forced into menial jobs. This blinkered approach paves the way for a future of zero hour contracts, a continuation of relative wage deflation and more people working multiple jobs. In short the “recovery” heralds an era where job insecurity will dominate and force people to work more for less – a clearly unpalatable prospect.
To build a more optimistic future, local authorities believe that they should be a greater role in combating youth unemployment. They argue that the underperforming Youth Contract should be devolved to councils and that the Work Programme should be commissioned locally. Backing up these arguments, Peter Box added that “councils know the reality of what is happening on the ground…We know how successful local organisations, such as councils, businesses and education providers, can be when working together and we would urge the Government to use this to its advantage and give us a say in the schemes that are aiming to get young people into work.”
While government supporters may point to the snail like recovery in employment figures, government detractors can respond by highlighting that long term youth unemployment has doubled under the current administration. Irrespective of political inclination it is clear that the heretofore favoured top down approach has failed to make a significant dent in youth unemployment. As the LGA has pointed out there are many advantages to a bottom up approach that involves actors with an intimate knowledge of what makes their local economy tick. At Peace Child International we agree that any practical solution to youth unemployment in the UK must take local factors into account. The exact dynamics of youth unemployment differ greatly around the UK and trying to impose a one size fits all solution will only meet with inevitable failure.
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