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Is youth employment truly falling?

By James McCrory

Friday 5 December 2014 Student Journalists

In order to do justice by the young workers of the UK and ensure a stable economic future for everyone, it is essential that the next government implement a system by which they guarantee paid work or training for every person aged 16-24 who is out of work, matched with their skills and interests, reports NUS Journalist James McCrory.

Youth unemployment is one of the U.K’s biggest plagues. Recent recession and the ‘age of austerity’ have had a grave impact on a lot of things.

The economic downturn has affected Britain’s economy as a whole, its businesses – large and small – and in turn it has affected its people.  There is no doubt that everyone has suffered and that includes the young workers of the UK.

There is a shimmer of hope, however, as recent trends in unemployment have enabled room for optimism for the economic youth of the nation.

According to research statistics produced by the House of Commons Library, youth unemployment on the whole is on the decrease. These findings show that:

737,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed between July and December of this year. That is 39,000 less than the previous quarter and 244,000 less than the previous year.

The overall unemployment rate, which is the percentage of the economically active population who are unemployed for 16-24 year olds, was 16.2 per cent - down 0.7 percentage points from the previous quarter and down 4.9 percentage points from the previous year.

The statistics also show that of those individuals not in full-time education, there were 489,000 unemployed 16-24 year olds in July to September 2014. This is a decrease of 182,000 from the previous year. The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds not in full-time education was 14.2 per cent.

Regarding long-term youth unemployment, 207,000 people aged 16-24 had been unemployed for over 12 months in July to September 2014, which is down 78,000 on the previous year. 28 per cent of unemployed 16-24 year olds had been unemployed for over 12 months.

This shows that there have been great changes as of late resulting in the number of young people in work going up. This is great, but it must be realised that this is still short-term and is not the answer to quelling youth unemployment to the point of economic stability.

There are programmes in place such as apprenticeships and ‘back to work’ programmes that serve the purpose of getting young people into work. These programmes are good in terms of experience, but they are not effective in providing young people with a decent wage to make them want to carry on working.

I spoke to Jonathan McDowell, a 23 year old who has been through a 'back to work' programme, who said:

'Going through a back to work programme in some ways was good for me as it helped me prepare for full time employment and gain extra qualifications.

'Although I also had to work up to 40 hours per week, while still only receiving my job seekers allowance plus £15 extra, and if I did not complete the programme I could have lost my allowance altogether.

'I found this unfair and degrading as I put in as much effort as the rest of the staff I was working with and they were in full time paid employment.'

This highlights that while these programmes can be effective to a degree when searching for a job after they have finished, it is still clear that they can be quite exploitative in nature.

Only in doing this will the next government show that they are dedicated to the young workers of the UK and establish a solid foundation upon which young people can acquire relevant skills and trade and in turn give back to the economy.

Our leaders must establish fairness, economic security and balance for the people and the nation and prove they are indeed a public service.


NUS journalist for work in the lead up to the 2015 general election. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am currently a student studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford in Manchester. I studied Broadcast Journalism for two years at Belfast Metropolitan College where I attained a level 5, Higher National Diploma in the subject.

I have had work published for the Salfordian, NUS and various student publications in Belfast. I have had experience working with UTV in Ireland and the BBC and I was also the Vice Chairperson of the Royal Television Society (RTS) Futures programme. I aspire now and in the future to be an activist journalist, never short of an opinion on a range of historic and contemporary issues.