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Professor Geraint Johnes
Professor of Economics at Lancaster University
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Professor Geraint Johnes

Young, gifted with underemployment, and black

Authors: Professor Geraint Johnes

04 February 2015

 The latest release of underemployment data in the Bell-Blanchflower series has highlighted sharp differentials by age and by ethnicity in workers’ experience in the labour market. These differentials are explored further in the table below, which draws on pooled data from the most recent available four quarters of the Labour Force Survey The unemployment rate for young people – those who have left full-time education and are aged under 25 – varies markedly across ethnic groups. For all groups, however, the rate is well above the corresponding rate for the overall population of working age. The unemployment rate is particularly high for young black workers. To some extent young people can mitigate the harsh environment of the labour market by investing more heavily in their own education. Rates of unemployment are lower – and in the case of young black workers markedly so – for those who leave education beyond the age of 18 than for those who leave earlier.

As is made clear in the Bell-Blanchflower data, the young suffer disproportionately from underemployment, with many young workers wishing to work longer hours than they currently work. This is captured, albeit crudely, in the table by the second row of data – which shows what the unemployment rate would be if we counted as unemployed all those who work part-time. The incidence of part-time working across all groups of young workers is huge. Again, young black workers appear to be the most disadvantaged group.

Education certainly helps young people make their way in the labour market. But the data reported here suggest that a wider range of solutions are called for in order to alleviate the wasted resource represented by young people.