The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures reveal that the issue of youth unemployment is not going away. The number of 16-24 year olds currently unemployed rose to a record high and edged closer to the one million mark, with more than one in five young people currently seeking work.
The ONS says: “The unemployment rate for those aged from 16 to 24 increased by 1.5 on the quarter to reach 20.5 per cent, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992. The number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds increased by 66,000 on the quarter to reach 965,000, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.”
Martina Milburn, CEO of the Prince’s Trust describes the latest statistics thus: “There are now enough unemployed young people to fill every football stadium in the Premier League, with almost 200,000 left queuing outside.”
The real picture is even worse. This week’s figures don’t include the 793,000 people in the 16 to 24 age group who are economically inactive and not looking for work since they are not counted in the unemployment figures.
It’s not just in the UK and Europe that high levels of youth unemployment are of concern. The current social unrest in the Middle East is in part due to the large numbers of young, frustrated people without work. The government knows, from previous economic downturns, the potentially disastrous long-term ‘scarring’ effects of having a generation of young people collectively experience a prolonged period of unemployment. The loss of skill and confidence at a young age can lead to long-term unemployment lasting until much later on in life.
Young people in Britain over the last few months have seen Educational Maintenance Allowance abolished, tuition fees triple, and the end of the Future Jobs Fund (FJF). There is justification for some of these policies but the triple-whammy needs to be offset by clear alternative options.
David Cameron says the Big Society is “all about is giving people more power and control to improve their lives and their communities” with the aim of enabling people to take more responsibility. But what exactly is the government doing to help young people take responsibility over their lives when it comes to finding employment?
The Single Work Programme will come into effect in the summer. The Work Programme will pay large service providers on results, according to the type of person they are helping find work, how long they have been out of work and how long they stay in sustainable employment.
A real worry is that we might see unemployment figures rise further over the next few months due to a gap in provision between March, when the Future Job Fund and many other existing programmes end, and June when the Work Programme is expected to start. What will happen in this interim period? How is the government going to prevent the unemployment figures soaring once more? Also, as we saw with the FJF in mid 2009, it will take a few months for the Single Work Programme to get up and running, while initial teething problems are ironed out. This will further prolong the period where support for people looking for work is lacking.
BBC News chief political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, pointed out that we can expect fewer people to go through the Work Programme than through the last government’s schemes. Officials have said they expect 605,000 people to go through the Work Programme in 2011-12 and 565,000 in 2012-13, while 850,000 went through the last government’s scheme in 2009-10.
The payments under the Work Programme for putting young people into work will be smaller in comparison to previous programmes. The payment structure is mainly aimed at moving people off incapacity benefit and getting hard to reach groups, such as ex-offenders into work. These are, of course, both admirable causes but the fact remains that, once again, it appears that young people find themselves bottom of the priority list. The Work Programme is also aimed much more narrowly at the demographic of young people that have been unemployed for a significant period of time (12 months or more), when most research points towards engaging with people early on in order to avoid loss of morale.
The cuts to the Department for Work and Pensions budget mean that it has had to keep some of its employment programmes, such as Work Experience (formerly ‘Work Pairings’ in the coalition manifesto), in-house and call on Jobcentre Plus to deliver these. This sounds like an uphill challenge for the Jobcentre which is itself grappling with a 25% budget cut, expected to lead to 9,300 jobs lost by 2013. At New Deal of the Mind, we have seen the effect of this on the Jobcentre first hand, witnessing some of our most competent and helpful colleagues in Jobcentres being let off over the first couple of months of 2011. This leaves us to wonder how the Jobcentres will be able to find jobs for the 965,000 young people aged 16-24 currently looking for work?
There is a growing concern that young people are being disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, the government needs to take swift action if it is really committed to giving young people the chance to take control over and improve their lives.
*Youth unemployment – key facts:
1. Youth unemployment costs the state £3.5m each day in Jobseekers’ Allowance.
2. The youth unemployment rate is 20.5%, compared with a general unemployment rate of 7.9%.
3. The record number of just under a million young people unemployed includes students in full-time education who may be looking for part-time work.
4. The unemployment level for 16 to 24-year-olds not in full-time education was 691,000 – the highest since 1994.
5. There are also 793,000 people in the 16 to 24 age group who are economically inactive, and are not in full time education. They do not appear in the official unemployment figures because they are by definition not looking for work.
6. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) produces official estimates of unemployment using the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition. Under this definition people aged 16 and over are unemployed if they are (a) out of work, want a job, have actively sought work in the last four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks; (b) out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks.