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Dr Neil Lee
Head of the socio-economic centre
T 020 7976 3611
Dr Neil Lee

Labour market not delivering for young people

Authors: Dr Neil Lee Dr Neil Lee

15 February 2012


Today’s labour market statistics are grim reading for young people: 1.04 million young people aged 16 to 24 are now unemployed, an increase of 22,000 from September 2011. The unemployment rate amongst young people is 22.2%, compared to 8.4% overall.

The recession is the immediate cause. Yet the problem has deeper, structural routes in the UK economy. Youth unemployment has been rising since 2001, reflecting changes in the labour market and the economy.

What can be done? The Youth Contract will kick in later this year, and that may have some impact. As part of our Missing Million research programme, sponsored by Barclays and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), we’ll be investigating some areas for improvement. Our research so far provides some pointers.

First of all, we need more focus on the core. Amongst the million youth unemployed are several groups – some of which are only temporarily unemployed, others are out of work for far longer. Policymakers need to focus on this core group, but they’re often the hardest to reach.

Second, local coordination matters. Young people access a number of services at a local level. They need help to navigate this complexity. Local government often knows when services aren’t joined up but lacks the flexibility to do so.  We need to consider how to build better pathways into work at a local level.

But third, these trends reflect longer-term changes in our economy which have been good for many, but bad for some. The architecture which used to support young people into work has been changing. As it is rebuilt it will need to reflect the new world of work.

Comments in Chronological Order (Total 3 Comments)

Pierce Inverarity

15 Feb 2012 1:40PM

The point about local co-ordination and action is important. What seems to be happening is that post-compulsion to attend educational venues, young people that have failed to benefit from state education, either through their own fault or the fault of the institution, isolate into small homogenous units with limited geographic mobility. The lack of any other familiar environment other than that where they have grown up and the lack of any means to explore beyond this realm entrenches an intensely restrictive naïve realism about what opportunities are available to them.

To draw on the work of Gramsci, these individuals shift significantly from the influence of one repressive state apparatus, the school, to another, the police, although the shift to the latter is marked by a much more distant relationship. Local retrenchment has also affected youth centres which could possibly act as an intermediary locale between the state and the individual vis-à-vis the labour market. The church would have traditionally filled this void but its effectiveness and ubiquity as an apparatus of conformity has reduced dramatically.

The mistake has been to assume that job centres can facilitate this engagement between NEET and the labour market. This approach will continue to not work. The issue is to understand how to maintain engagement and therefore communication post-compulsion and re-orientate the entrenched linear view of education that prevails. We need more secular churches. This would shift these individuals from the subjugation to police authority towards an educational subjugation that will move young people from hard to reach to easy to teach.

Nike TN

06 Mar 2012 12:05PM

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